From the time Jane Goodall was a girl, she dreamed of a life spent working with animals. Her earliest fascination with animals inspired her to hide in a henhouse so that she could watch hens lay their eggs. After years of study, at 23, Jane Goodall made her first voyage to Africa and began her determined steps, one after another, to achieve her goal of studying animals by living among them. On her expeditions she braved the dangers of the jungle and survived encounters with leopards and lions in the African bush. Her detailed observations of many kinds of animals, but especially generations of chimpanzee families, reveal a world few human beings ever come to know. Her story covers the proud achievements of a lifetime, including raising her son in the Africa she loves.
In My Life with the Chimpanzees, Jane Goodall shares the remarkable journey which took her from her childhood in London and Bournemouth, England, to the realization of her dream in the wilds of Gombe, Tanzania.
From Chapter 1
It was very stuffy and hot where I crouched, and the straw tickled my legs. There was hardly any light, either. But I could see the bird on her nest of straw. She was about five feet away from me, on the far side of the chicken house, and she had no idea I was there. If I moved I would spoil everything. So I stayed quite still. So did the chicken.
Presently, very slowly, she raised herself from the straw. She was facing away from me and bending forward. I saw a round white object gradually protruding from the feathers between her legs. It got bigger. Suddenly she gave a little wiggle and -- plop! -- it landed on the straw. I had actually watched the laying of an egg.
With loud, pleased clucks, the chicken shook her feathers, moved the egg with her beak, then proudly strutted her way out of the henhouse.
I tumbled out, stiff but excited, and ran all the way to the house. My mother was just about to call the police. She had been searching for me for hours. She had no idea that I had been crouched all that time in the henhouse.
This was my first serious observation of animal behavior. I was five years old. How lucky it was that I had an understanding mother! Instead of being angry because I had given her a scare, she wanted to know all about the wonderful thing I had just seen.
Even though I was so young at the time, I can still remember a lot about that experience. I remember being puzzled about eggs. Where on a chicken was there an opening big enough for an egg to come out? I don't know if I asked anyone. If I did, no one told me. I decided to find out for myself. I remember thinking as I watched a hen going into one of the henhouses, "Ah, now I'll follow her and see what happens." And I remember how she rushed out, squawking in alarm, when I squeezed in after her. Obviously that was no good. I would have to get in first and wait until a hen decided to come in and lay her egg. That is why I was so long inside the henhouse. You have to be patient if you want to learn about animals.
When I grew up I became an ethologist -- a long word that simply means a scientist who studies animal behavior. Most people, when they think of an animal, think of a creature with hair, such as a dog or cat, a rabbit or a mouse, a horse or a cow. In fact, the word animal includes all living creatures except for plants. Jellyfish and insects, frogs and lizards, fish and birds are all animals just as cats and dogs are. But cats and dogs and horses are mammals, a special kind of animal. Humans are mammals, too.
You probably know all that. Children today know a lot more about these sorts of things than most adults did when I was your age. I remember having a huge argument with one of my aunts when I tried to make her believe that a whale was a mammal, not a fish. She wouldn't believe me and I cried. I was so frustrated.
Copyright © 1988, 1996 by Byron Preiss Visual Publications, Inc.
Excerpted from "My Life with the Chimpanzees" by Jane Goodall. Copyright © 1996 by Jane Goodall. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.