Environment champion Jane Goodall returns to the UAE

The octogenarian environmentalist has been asked to give a talk on the state of the world to members of Abu Dhabi's royal family.

Jane Goodall, centre, interacts with pupils and Roots & Shoots volunteers on her visit to Abu Dhabi in January. Courtesy Valerie Cox
Powered by automated translation

After her January visit, Famed primatologist and ­environmentalist Jane Goodall is back in Abu Dhabi, this time to deliver a private lecture.

“It’s a great honour to have been invited,” the 81-year-old said in an interview ahead of her talk. “I’ve been asked to talk about the state of the world and what we can do about it, and about my environmental youth programme, Roots & Shoots, which is growing in Abu Dhabi. We’re now in 137 countries with at least 100,000 active groups of all ages.”

Roots & Shoots is a youth-led community action and learning programme, launched by the Jane Goodall Institute, through which young members from ­various parts of the world map their community to identify challenges before learning how to develop a plan for solutions.

Goodall, who was here in January to give a talk at New York University Abu Dhabi, is full of praise for the Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, which has given 1,267 grants totalling US$12,411,475 (Dh45.6m) for conservational research since it was founded in 2008.

“They’re doing some amazing work. Lots of conservation groups don’t really think about species, they’re just emphasising habitat protection. I’m not sure that people in Abu Dhabi realise how much good they’re doing. It’s having a huge impact around the world,” she said, adding that she was pleased with the city’s latest outdoor public space, Mushrif Central Park, created using indigenous plants and trees to minimise water usage and help preserve native ­species.

Goodall is best known for her 55-year study of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania, in which she discovered chimps form “primitive cultures” not dissimilar to our own.

And the evironmentalist is celebrating a landmark victory this month. Since the 1970s in the United States, wild chimps have been classified as endangered and the captive ones as threatened, which has given them less protection.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has now declared that all chimps are now endangered, meaning special permits are now needed to conduct experiments on captive chimps.

Since her last visit to Abu Dhabi, Goodall hasn’t stopped to rest, flying to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Hungary and giving up to three lectures a day.

The children of the UAE are giving her good reason to be hopeful. The 13 schools that have signed up for Roots & Shoots in the emirate of Abu Dhabi include Emirates Private School, which has built a decomposer pit and garden in the backyard.

Julia Grifferty, 17, a Grade 11 pupil at American Community School, has kick-started a “Boot the Bottle” campaign in Abu Dhabi, persuading many pupils to switch to reusable water bottles.

And British Al Muna Primary School has held a “trashion” show with clothes made of recycled materials. Al Muna pupils Lian Dalluki, and Zainab Papla, both 9, also made up a song about the rainforest for Goodall’s 80th birthday that they sang to her during her January visit.

“She’s inspired me to plant more trees,” says Zainab. “There are lots of animals around the world that need help.”

Diera International School pupil Kehkashan Basu, 15, from India, started her work on biodiversity conservation after first meeting Goodall when she was 9. Three years later, Kehkashan formed her own youth organisation to promote sustainable development, Green Hope. “Dr Goodall’s passion for the environment set me off on my journey to protect Mother Earth. Now we have beach and mangrove clean-up campaigns, and tree-planting sessions – we’ve planted a lot of trees around DIFC so it’s extremely green.”