Dr. Jane Goodall and the Institute do not endorse handling or interfering with wild chimpanzees. The chimpanzee in this photo is orphaned and lives at a sanctuary.
It has been 50 years since I started my study of the chimpanzees of Gombe in 1960. All that was known about primates was based on only a few species that had been studied for a few months each. Since then thousands of researchers and field assistants have spent countless hours, like I did with the chimps, patiently following their group of apes, monkeys or prosimians to be accepted so they can be studied for years. The researchers have recorded what they eat, where they sleep, where they go, with whom they play, groom, fight and play. They are known as individuals with distinct personalities, with likes, dislikes and quirks. They are as identifiable to the researchers as friends and close cousins with a past, a place in their community and a future. From them we have learned just how similar and distant they are from our species. They have emotions that we humans can easily relate to. Recent studies of their cortisol hormone levels have shown they react to the stress of being subordinate in much the same way as we humans do.
These in depth studies, which have included the studies of the genetic of how one species is related to another, has lead to the discovery of many new species that were totally unknown to science or known from museum specimens but unrecognized as being distinct species.
In 1996 when I wrote the foreword for Noel Rowe’s The Pictorial Guide to the Living Primates 234 species were known. All the World’s Primates has all the 396 currently recognized species fully illustrated with color photographs and drawings and maps. Though Noel is listed as the editor it is the collaborative effort of over 200 researchers, many of whom discovered some of these new species or have helped to describe the behaviors of species never studied before in their natural habitat. This book has a companion website which includes all of the 612 species and subspecies of primates with video of how many of these primates move and audio of their loud calls and other vocalizations.
I could never have imagined that all this information would be available from one source when I started my study. I am excited to be able to compare one species to the next, to see their similarities and their differences, their faces, their hands, what they eat, where they live and how they live. But I am humbled to see how many are listed as critically endangered, or endangered, or vulnerable to extinction and how few are of lower risk and what threatens them. I have witnessed dead monkeys for sale in the market and the destruction of habitats. Gombe was a reserve inside an extended forest in 1960 now it is the only forest left. It has cultivated field’s right up to its boundaries as do many protected areas. It is an insular oasis of habitat for chimps and wildlife in a sea of humanity. Global climate change brings a huge new level of challenges for the conservation of endangered primates and other wildlife. The forest will change in unpredictable ways. How will the chimps adapt? How will humans adapt? Humans are problem solving primates capable of foreseeing the future and changing it to suit their needs and desires. I have hope that the problems that face us and the all living things with which we share this planet can and will be solved if enough of us act together to make peace, work together and share what we have to create a better place.
Noel Rowe, the editor, whom I have met at several conferences over the years, directs Primate Conservation, Inc. This not for profit organization’s goal is to fund graduate students and conservationists to study and protect the least known and most endangered primates in their natural habitat. In much the same way that Louis Leakey helped me by finding the funding to start my study in Tanzania, Primate Conservation Inc. has helped young researchers by funding over 400 projects in 28 different counties. It has helped to fund some of the studies and many of the authors that have contributed to the All the World’s Primates project.
As you look through this book you will be amazed by the diversity of primates, you will recognize faces that are familiar and others that are fantastic. I am sure it will motivate you to protect our closest relatives in their natural habitat. Everyone who purchases this book and uses its website will cherish it.
Jane Goodall, PhD, MBE
The Jane Goodall Institute
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Citation: Noel Rowe, Marc Myers, eds. All the World’s Primates, www.alltheworldsprimates.org. Primate Conservation Inc., Charlestown RI.