Jane Goodall on whether chimpanzees should get passports, why elephants shouldn't be in zoos, and how Bigfoot might be real

Will Lerner
Producer, Yahoo Entertainment

Jane Goodall is a dame of the British Empire, founder of a global institute that bears her name, is a Messenger of Peace for the United Nations, and is one of the most respected and renowned ethologists. And she is a bit of a Bigfoot truther.

The legendary “chimp lady” and subject of the new National Geographic documentary Jane visited Yahoo Entertainment this week for a wide-ranging interview that covered the primates she has devoted her life to, her disdain for keeping elephants in captivity, and, of course, the possibility Sasquatch is out there.

Bigfoot might not just be a tall tale

“I’m a romantic,” Goodall replied, when asked if she thought Bigfoot existed. “I would like Bigfoot to exist. I’ve met people who swear they’ve seen Bigfoot. I think the interesting thing is every single continent there is an equivalent of Bigfoot or Sasquatch. There’s the Yeti, the Yowie in Australia, the Chinese Wildman, and on and on and on. I’ve heard stories from people who, you have to believe them. So there’s something. I don’t know what it is.”

While she might be open-minded about Bigfoot, she doesn’t have that same feeling when it comes to all cryptozoological creatures.

“The Loch Ness monster,” she said, “obviously doesn’t exist.”

Aliens?

“It doesn’t make sense to think we’re the only intelligent form of life.”

Jane Goodall and infant chimpanzee Flint reach out to touch each other’s hands. Flint was the first infant born at Gombe after Jane arrived. With him she had a great opportunity to study chimp development and to have physical contact, which is no longer deemed appropriate with chimps in the wild. The feature documentary Jane is available on NationalGeographic.com. (Photo: National Geographic Creative/Hugo van Lawick)

Chimps are just like us — maybe too much so

While Goodall spent years in the field studying the chimps of Tanzania that doesn’t mean she loves them unconditionally.

“Chimps are so like us that there’s some chimps that you really really like and some that you really dislike,” she explained. “They’re just so like us. Whereas other animals they’re less like us but you don’t have the same tendency say, ‘I really dislike that one.’ … I love dogs. Every day I want a dog fix. I miss having a dog. You can’t travel the way I do with a dog.”

Goodall also pointed to a recent case to illustrate the perceived humanity of chimps.

“Two chimpanzees in Angola are being brought into a … sanctuary,” she said. “There’s talk of them getting passports. That would be a first and that would really make a statement. People say, ‘We can’t give human rights to chimps.’ Of course you can’t and it’s not something I push because we’ve signed bills of rights, human rights, and everywhere around the world every day [they] are violated. People are fighting for chimps to get certain rights. Like the right of freedom from torture. Which was certainly helpful in [getting] the chimps out from medical research.”

Why elephants shouldn’t be in zoos

People might love seeing elephants in zoos, but Goodall has an issue with pachyderms being put on display.

“Elephants are highly social,” she explained. “They have bonds between family members that can last a lifetime, up to 60 years. They grieve death and have amazing memories and are highly intelligent. So often elephants are being kept shackled. They get terrible bone diseases from standing on concrete. And, OK, it’s getting better but they shouldn’t be in zoos. They just shouldn’t. Nor should whales or dolphins.”

Jane Goodall visiting the Gaia Zoo in Kerkrade, Netherlands, on May 18, 2012. (Photo: Freek Van Asperen/AFP/Getty Images)

However, Goodall is not necessarily against zoos in general — if they’re well-maintained and operated properly.

“There’s a certain group of people who say animals must be wild, which is a noble thought,” she continued. “But if you’ve seen as much as I have in Africa about the way wild animals are losing their habitats [you would know] they’re being hunted for the live animal trade, they’re being caught in snares, and this is including chimpanzees. You look at a chimpanzee group in a really good zoo where they’ve got lots of space, lots of enrichment, they have a good social group, they have keepers who adore them and a public who go see them all the time and I’m thinking if I’m a chimp I’m going to choose that really good zoo rather than live in fear in the wild. You can’t just say all zoos are bad. You can’t just say no animals should be in the zoo.”

Jane, nominated for seven Emmy awards, is free to stream on National Geographic’s website this week and next.

Watch: Jane Goodall on the damage Donald Trump has done to the environment as president:

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