Today was a day I will never forget... the day I got to spend with one of my lifelong heroes, Dr Jane Goodall. As I child, I read all her books about the enigmatic chimpanzees she studied in Gombe National Park in Tanzania and when I was researching colobus monkeys in Kenya many years ago, I looked in more detail at her work. By observing the chimpanzees to have unique and individual personalities, she completely changed the science of animal behaviour and ever since has been an inspiration for countless people, young and old, for her tireless work to make the world a better place.
In 1977, she established the Jane Goodall Institute which supported the research work and in 1991, its global youth action programme, Roots and Shoots, was born. The Donkey Sanctuary supports northern Tanzania’s Roots and Shoots network to learn about the value of donkeys and the importance of their welfare and to find community-based, local ways to improve the lives of both the donkeys and the people who rely on them. Donkeys are fundamental to the rural and peri-urban communities in Tanzania, although their characteristics and needs are widely misunderstood and wounds are often caused by poor harnesses and yokes which are designed for oxen, not donkeys. Roots and Shoots clubs each choose three projects; one is environmental, one is a community campaign and one focusses on animals. Depending on the local situation, donkeys can be relevant to all areas and through our support, projects to improve donkey welfare are popping up across northern Tanzania.
It has been three years since Jane Goodall last visited Arusha so it was extremely fortuitous that my work with Roots and Shoots last week overlapped with her visit. Jane was already very aware of the work of The Donkey Sanctuary and was very excited to learn more about our relationship with Roots and Shoots. She enjoyed learning about our simple way of describing welfare (the Hand) and was delighted to hear about how our wonderful supporters make our work possible.
As a token of the friendship between The Donkey Sanctuary and the Roots and Shoots programme, I presented her with a gift - a beautiful grey "Woolley" donkey, knitted by one of our supporters. Jane was delighted and quickly named him Chesterton after the poet G. K. Chesterton, who wrote the poem The Donkey.
One of her key messages to the children of the world is that "although the efforts each of us makes may seem small, the results of our combined efforts make the world a better place for all living things. Together we can make a difference". Such an inspiring woman and I can’t wait to travel to the field with the Roots and Shoots team tomorrow to learn more about how they are working to make that difference to the donkeys of Tanzania.