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Chimpanzees: See no evil

They are highly intelligent, our nearest genetic relatives, yet chimpanzees remain persecuted and abused. Rachelle Thackray talks to their greatest, indefatigable champion. Photographs by Michael Nichols
The road has been a long and weary one for Jane Goodall, the Englishwoman whose single-minded dedication to chimpanzees has earned her recognition around the world. Despite nearly 40 years of campaigning for these engaging, intelligent animals, she still sees them hunted for their flesh, or paraded as novelty pets. Brutal Kinship, a book on which Goodall collaborated with photographer Michael Nichols, highlights a sinister new threat to chimpanzees - and other wild animals - from bush-meat hunters, who have been given access to untouched forest heartlands as a result of roads cut by logging companies deep into the Congo Basin. "Hunters are able to go in and kill as many as possible," says Goodall. "They are sun-drying or smoking the meat or even packing it fresh on the logging trucks. This is not to feed starving people. This is to cater for the cultural preference for the meat of wild animals." She is currently negotiating with the logging companies to put a stop to the killing and find substitutes for the traders. Goodall now spends much of her time on the lecture circuit, raising awareness of her work. After a PhD in ethology at Cambridge, she founded the Gombe Stream Research Centre in Tanzania. It became home to 120 chimps - among them Fifi, Flo and Frodo, the family made famous in the classic TV documentary.

The centre's 30 miles of woodland have become isolated as surrounding trees have been cut down to make way for farming. "It's as though the chimps are living on an island," explains Goodall. "They can no longer exchange genes with other groups and in the long term there will be the effects of in-breeding." In a bid to help save the dwindling natural environment, she has helped set up a programme for villagers from the shores of Lake Tanganyika to grow fruit and vegetables and plant trees. "We have now reached the stage where this can be replicated in other parts of Africa, so that the people themselves are helping to save the last forests," she says.

Sometimes the cruelty to chimpanzees is closer to home: Goodall was provoked by a recent US Airforce decision to hand over more than 100 creatures, which had been used for experimentation, to a toxicologist. They should go to a sanctuary, she argued, where they can live out their days in peace and quiet - something Goodall herself deserves. Apart from the occasional fortnight with her 94-year-old mother in England, or her grandchildren in Tanzania, her days are crammed with speaking and campaigning engagements. "I'm literally living in hotels. My spiritual home is Gombe - it's where I go to recharge my batteries. I had these wonderful, incredible years, living with the chimps, building the research station and getting knowledge. Now is the time for sharing". `Brutal Kinship' by Michael Nichols and Jane Goodall (Aperture, pounds 15.95) can be ordered from The Jane Goodall Institute UK, 15 Clarendon Park, Lymington, Hants SO41 8AX, 01590 671188; e-mail info@janegoodall.org.uk

Previous pages, clockwise from top left: a female Tai Forest chimp protects the corpse of her infant, which died after falling and probably breaking its neck; Whiskey, a five-year-old chimpanzee, held captive in a car-repair garage in Burundi; Jane Goodall with La Vielle, an aged female half-crazed from spending years alone in a Congolese zoo, La Vielle was moved to a nearby sanctuary in 1994.

This page, clockwise from top left: Sam, a former carnival chimp, which is now caged beside his owner's bar in Maineville, Ohio - in spite of posted signs, visitors sneak cigarettes to him which he lights for himself; a technician feeds a one-week-old research chimp at the Southwest Institute in San Antonio, Texas; 43-year-old Susie, a former performing chimpanzee, with owner Dan Westfall at his home in Palm Springs, California