Jane Goodall is a hero to her fans, who will get a chance to see the beloved "Chimp Lady" as she stops in Denver as part of the Denver Distinguished Lecture Series. For those who have never heard her speak -- or make chimp calls -- the upcoming talk is a must.
As a young woman in the 1960s, Dr. Goodall left England for Africa to study under anthropologist Dr. Lewis Leakey. She researched chimpanzees in a then-little-known region of Tanzania, which became Gombe Game Reserve. During the past forty years, Goodall has made both scientific and humanitarian breakthroughs. Thanks to her, we now know that chimps use tools to obtain food, are problem solvers and are capable of reasoned thought.
Dr. Goodall's findings began to close the gap between what is "animal" and what is "human," forcing the smug Homo sapiens to reconsider his relationship to his primate cousins. She was the first scientist to observe that chimps have depth of emotion: mourning death, engaging in conflict and showing gestures of affection.
Auditorium Theater, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, 14th and Curtis Streets
7 p.m. February 13, $15-52
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Branching out, she founded the Jane Goodall Institute in 1977. Its goal is not only the study of primates, but also the protection of their populations and habitat. JGI gives ordinary people the chance to take action to improve the environment for all living things. The Institute's initiatives span the globe, uniting communities that might not otherwise have common ground.
Goodall's passion for chimps and their conservation comes across so strongly during her lectures that it's impossible for listeners not to get excited. She encourages people to become activists, whether this means fighting to preserve chimpanzee habitat or going on trash walks to pick up garbage.
She speaks of each chimp personally, often showing slides and explaining family lineage. And if the audience is really lucky, she'll throw her head back and start the evening with a chimp call. If it comes from Jane, you'd better listen.