Three Great Female Scientists of Primatology: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas

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Three Great Female Scientists of Primatology: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas Anthony Ambrosius Aurelius

“Archeologist Louis Leakey (pronounced “lee-key”) correctly believed ahead of anyone else, that human beings and the Great Apes share a common ancestor. Leakey proposed that if human beings and any member of the Great Apes live side by side, any traits which are performed upon either ends would most likely show up as a trait of the common ancestor of both species (e.g. rubbing hands together to keep warm). Primatologist Jane Goodall worked with Leakey before venturing off on her own into the Tanzanian forest, and she accredits Leakey with inspiring her to make the transition. Leakey conversed with Goodall multiple times about a family of chimpanzees living in the wild near a lakeshore, and it was his hope for scientists to someday learn about chimpanzee behaviors. Goodall asked Leakey why he kept tormenting her with this fantasy life as she wanted it more than anything, a life of solitude spent in study of the chimpanzee, to which Leakey replied “Jane, why do you think I’m telling you about it?”. Goodall states that this was the moment when she decided that her life was going to change forever as she was going to embark upon her mission to understand everything there is to know about the Pan genus.

Dian Fossey, an American, became the second person to live with apes when she went to study mountain gorillas within the Rwandan forest. The third person to do so was Canadian Biruté Galdikas (pronounced “bah-roo-tay gald-ee-kas”) who studied orangutans in the forests of Borneo. All 3 women worked with and knew Leakey personally and have become affectionately referred to by others as the “Trimates”. Leakey chose women to undergo these monumental life long studies as he felt that women would make better observers in the field as he believed they were more patient than their male counterparts. Originally Leakey believed the study would take 10 years and when Goodall heard this she disbelieved Leakey’s accuracy as she did not believe she would last a full 10 years in the wild.

Fig trees when available are highly popular with chimpanzees, with groups spending a lot of time in or near the fig tree, eating its fruits and engaging in social activities (e.g. grooming etc.). Fig trees can be thought of in a human context as a trendy coffee retail shop where people meet not only for coffee but also to socialize and relax. In chimpanzee society, the entire culture is centered”

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