By Jane Goodall Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009 / Time.com
What characteristics make chimpanzees seem most like human beings? Chip Clark, ST. JOHN’S, NFLD.
How can you be so empathetic with chimps? Kantesh Guttal, PUNE, INDIA
We are all part of the animal kingdom. The kind of empathy that I feel for people is the kind of empathy I feel for chimpanzees. Do they have a dark, brutal side to their nature? Yes. So do people.
How do you work with so many animals and not get overly attached to them? Specialist McKinzie Baker CAMP TAJI, IRAQ
I’ve always been very attached to the animals I work with, and although a scientist is supposed to be subjective and lack empathy, I’ve always thought this is wrong. It’s the empathy you feel with a living, individual being that really helps you understand. Then you can use your scientific training to find out if your intuition is correct.
Which do you like better, chimps or humans? Michael Boshears PALMER, ALASKA
I like some chimpanzees much better than some humans and some humans much better than some chimpanzees.
What’s your position on people who have chimps as pets? Siobhan Laurino, LYNN, MASS.
When they are little, they are cute, but by the time they reach early adolescence, they are already as strong as a human, and you cannot predict what will trigger a sudden anger or rage. The Jane Goodall Institute is fighting very hard for legislation that will prohibit people from owning other primates as pets. Very rarely can they give them a good life.
I’m conflicted about the use of primates in research for human illnesses. What’s your opinion? Idalia Roberts, ATLANTA
The more that we learn about these animals, the more we realize that from the animals’ point of view, such experiments amount to torture. In many instances, it’s immoral to be thinking about animals as living test tubes. So let’s get our brilliant brains together and come up with alternatives as quickly as we can.
Why don’t you approve of zoos? Don’t they educate the public about the environment and endangered species? Hari Venkatesh CHENNAI, INDIA
Some zoos are O.K. The problem is, there are so many zoos where animals don’t have a proper social group. They don’t have things to do, and an animal like that can’t educate anyone, because it’s not behaving normally at all. You might just as well look at a photo or a stuffed example in a museum, because you won’t see any natural behavior.
I would like to work with orangutans when I grow up. Any tips about how to get started? Lauren Webb, LAYTON, UTAH
I would urge you to look up our Roots and Shoots programs for young people who have the same kind of passion as you. If we don’t protect these orangutans, there won’t be any left for you to study.
Do you feel that in your lifetime you will have achieved what is necessary for the permanent protection of chimpanzees? Dan Quigley HOPKINTON, MASS.
Unfortunately not. We’ve got an awful long way to go.
Do you think there is still hope for this planet despite all the bad things we have done to our environment? Elsie Wong, HONG KONG
When I was doing the research for this book, I met so many extraordinary people who rescued species from the brink of extinction when everybody else laughed at them. One example is the California condor. At one time, there were just 12 of these birds left in the wild and one in captivity. Now there are 300. This bird would have gone but for a small group of people who would not give up. As long as we have people like that, there’s hope for the future.