In the face of recent natural and man-made disasters, we should not lose hope.
This was the message delivered by Dr Jane Goodall, the world-famous primatologist and environmentalist, during a lecture given on Wednesday night as part of the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed lecture series.
"Every single one of us makes a difference. Every one of us. We have a choice as to what kind of difference we are going to make," the 81-year-old UN Ambassador of Peace said as part of her talk, Reasons for Hope.
Dr Goodall, who told the audience her work still demands that she travel frequently, as much as 300 days a year, reflected on her early years at Gombe, in western Tanzania, during her 55-plus years of research on chimpanzees.
“You cannot share your life in a meaningful way with any animal and not know that they do have personalities, and minds, and emotions. So, today, science has begun to realise that animals are way more intelligent than we used to think,” she said.
Audience members also heard about the family structure of primates, their communication, posture, gestures and their darker sides.
When focusing on the issue of hope, Dr Goodall said it was not a surprise many had become disenfranchised.
“Is it not extraordinary that the most intellectual creature that has ever walked this planet is destroying its only home.”
But, she said, hope should not fade, citing examples from the UAE with regards to the growth of conservation science in helping with forest regeneration and saving endangered species from extinction.
“The Arabian oryx was declared extinct in the wild and because of the foresight of the late Sheikh Zayed, the breeding programme was begun to save the Arabic oryx from total extinction by gathering together the oryx that were in captivity and establishing [the ark of Abu Dhabi in Sir Bani Yas].
“Now, these Arabian oryx have been released back into the wild, with a flourishing herd in Abu Dhabi of which you can be very proud.
“It’s unbelievable what people can do when they’re determined not to let these extinctions happen.”
The Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, which handed out more than US$1.5 million (Dh5.51m) to local and international conservation projects last year, was getting better recognition worldwide, Dr Goodall said. In the six years since it began, the foundation has distributed $12.4m to more than 1,250 projects in more than 150 countries.
“The tasks that it is tackling are truly important. It has recognised that every species matters. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an insect, a fish, an amphibian or a reptile, a bird or a mammal. Every species has its role to play in the rich tapestry of our environment.”
Solar Impulse 2, which took off from Abu Dhabi on March 9 on a historic round-the-world flight attempt without using fuel, should also inspire hope, she said.
“That Solar Impulse. Everybody told them, ‘it’s not possible’, but they wouldn’t give up and it took 13 years and now they’re flying around the world.”
The lecture was attended by members of the royal family including Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation, and various other sheikhs, ministers, ambassadors and members of the public.