Does Naming a Monkey Lead to a Better Primatology?

An article in the American Journal of Primatology came out recently about the primatologists’ relationship with their nonhuman primate (NHP) research subjects. Augusto Vitale based this reflective paper on his experience working with tufted capuchins, particularly with a 32-year old male capuchin named Cammello. Describing this research monkey, Vitale said:

Beyond my relationship with him as an experimental subject, I liked him very much as a unique individual. He was very successful in all kinds of tasks, eager to do things, and I wanted to believe that he also liked me. Recently, I decided to pay the capuchins colony a visit, since my last brief visit was more than 2 years ago. When Cammello saw me, he rushed to the wire-mesh, screaming at me. He stretched his arms through the metal mesh, embraced and groomed me, and whispered soft sounds. He remained in that position for about 5 min. Keepers and young researchers who witnessed this encounter were surprised and impressed, as it had been nearly 20 years since I had spent any time conducting experiments with him. It was a deeply moving experience.

Taking a cue from this experience, Vitale went on to discuss the relationship between primatological science and feelings. He contended that primatology had benefited and could benefit more from the “trust” formed between the observer and the observed. For example, world knowledge has increased due to the scientific insights gained from pioneering primatologists like Jane Goodall, Birute Galdikas, and Dian Fossey–all of whom developed a long-lasting bond with the individuals they worked with. When Jane Goodall first recorded tool use among chimps, she also told us about the moving story of Flo and the F family. Dian Fossey studied gorilla society in the highlands of Rwanda and was deeply affected when a young silverback named Digit was found dead and dismembered. Birute Galdikas spent the majority of her adult life studying Bornean orangs and adopted orphaned infants into her family.

ResearchBlogging.orgHowever, their naturalistic and ethnographic approaches were criticized due to their anthropomorphism. Primatologists like Jeanne Altmann moved away from this technique by developing “protocols for the nontendentious (less anthropomorphic) descriptions of primate behavior” (Longino 1990:210). The trend thus towards a more quantitative approach in behavioral observation became more pronounced in reaction to the perceived tendentiousness of the early primatologists. Nonetheless, Vitale maintained that anthropomorphism is not necessarily bad and that the qualitative approach can also be useful in illuminating individual primate personalities :

It seems clear that a mixture of empathic and objective positioning informed Jane Goodall’s observations on chimpanzee behavior, as she conducted science in that particular research context. Empathic attitudes can lead to anthropomorphism, and this is now no longer considered as a sin. Pamela Asquith had once argued that anthropomorphism is essential for studying primates and, more interestingly, important for understanding primates. Shirley Strum has advocated a flexible methodology when ‘‘observed’’ and ‘‘observer’’ are so similar [both comments in Strum & Fedigan, 2000]…

I think that the study of primates has to recognize the multiple factors operating in primatological studies, including (i) the need to produce objective science; (ii) the potential empathic dimension toward NHPs by human observers; (iii) the consequent emotional involvement; and (iv) a realistic analysis of the pros and cons of a likely anthropomorphic attitude in primatological science.
The result of this multifactorial methodology is not necessarily chaos of the subjective and objective dimensions, but a way to increase our understanding of important phenomena. A more narrative view on primates’ lives, together with a more quantitative approach, opens new opportunities for describing and understanding differences in personalities within populations of primates.

Vitale therefore argued for the strengthening of the relationship between the researcher and their study subjects. One way of strengthening this bond is assigning each individual with a name. The standard practice for many primatologists has been to assign them with an ID number (a combination of letters and numbers) although little names are given to them in private. That they appear in research reports and journal articles as numbered individuals belie the fact that primatologists (and I believe the majority) give anthropomorphic names to their study individuals. Vitale contended that naming “reinforces a sense of dignity these animals inspire. This is important in relation to the fact that the people who deal with the monkeys, at any level, must always keep their welfare in mind.” Describing their team’s experience in naming a monkey, Vitale explained:

In the case of our team, the person who chooses a particular name for a particular individual does not act in a purely ‘‘technical’’ sense. The name is suggested by capturing the certain character, predisposition, general behavioral attitude of that given individual, or because the name reflects a particular visual feature that often has to do with facial characteristics (‘‘the way he/she looks at me’’). Sometimes, as soon as the monkey has a name, he or she becomes rather immune from invasive procedures; in a way, the name protects him/her….

Establishing a personal relationship can be beneficial for the welfare of a particular individual and, consequently, for the quality of research…Better knowledge of the single individual is valuable in terms of animal welfare, and enriching this knowledge can be motivated both by scientific and sentimental interest.

This article highlighted the need for primatology to integrate the qualitative approach. This would be a nice complement to the advances made in the quantitative area. While the early pioneers might have projected their biases on to their research subjects, they did provide valuable insights into the species they studied.  I think primatology could learn a lot from the reflexive practice of its sister discipline, cultural anthropology, albeit with some obvious tweaking because of the nature of primatology’s study subjects. The sophistication of the qualitative approach of contemporary cultural anthropology would be very helpful for the primatologists’ search for an appropriate methodology for behavioral observation. I believe that there are nuances in primate behavior that cannot simply be crunched by numbers. As Vitale said, “critical anthropomorphic language in the study of animal behavior…is legitimate. Anthropomorphic language can be now applied not only when talking about NHP, but for other animals as well. ”

Vitale A (2010). Primatology between feelings and science: a personal experience perspective. American journal of primatology PMID: 20626037

Learning Monkeys

I have been learning individual monkeys for the past few months. It is very challenging considering that the species I am more familiar with are the Philippine tarsiers and, cursorily, the long-tailed macaques. The only time I saw a live rhesus was during a visit to a zoo in Albuquerque, NM. Now, I have around 150 rhesus monkeys roaming in a 15-hectare island to learn from and identify.

The first few days were a real challenge. The monkeys looked no different from the other macaques elsewhere: quadrupedal, diurnal, sexually dimorphic, a hair ball with a human-like face.  The difficulty of learning the monkeys was compounded by my initial fear of the primate. Not so much that they are potential carriers of several pathogens, Herpes B among them, but the possibility that they might charge and rip the flesh off my leg–like that neighbor’s dog that crunched my behind when I was a kid.

The male rhesus weren’t interested in taming my wild imagination at all. A male monkey would cross my path from time to time, a  foot away or less, sometimes stepping on my shoe, as if letting me know that he can invade my personal bubble whenever he wants to. This constant flaunting of male rhesus authority in the island however made me immune to this display of power.

Almost often too, the beauty of the island diverts my attention away from the macaques. Cayo Santiago is composed of two small islands connected by a narrow semi-circle shaped sandy isthmus. The island is embraced by the emerald sea from all sides flourishing with all sorts of marine life. Manatees sometimes forage on the abundant sea grasses growing along the littoral zone. A lone osprey haunts the skyscape of the island. Iguanas–descendants of feral reptilian pets–also reside there together with a solitary Puerto Rican boa and a host of mantou crabs, egrets, pelicans, herons, etc.

Learning the monkeys was a painstaking process of gaining the census takers’ perspective. The census takers–our primary mentors–were tasked to teach us the basics of memorizing individual monkey IDs (Us here means Jackie and I. Jackie had experience working with baboons. A dive instructor and a primatologist, she has worked in both terrestrial and marine contexts). We went out with them as they take the census of each animal on the island. The census takers, with years upon years of experience, can identify each rhesus on the island with ease (around 1300 individuals). I suppose a shadow of the monkey’s tail from the bushes is quite enough for them to identify.

While the monkeys have ear notches and tattoos to aid researchers in recognizing individuals, it was the constant interaction with the macaques that allowed us to identify individuals. Anything particular and unique of each monkey became more noticeable. The scars, which were previously absent from my gaze, became primordial signposts for monkey identity along with other distinguishing characteristics like color of pelage, brow shape, crest shape, injuries, etc. Our little names for the monkeys also helped in many ways, perhaps because by anthropomorphizing, we render their traits comprehensible to our human experience. For example, I named one monkey Andy Garcia because his eyes droop, making him look like a guilt-ridden macaque mafiosi. Another was named as The Grinch because her face is similar to that classic Dr. Seuss character. There is one we call Feets because he has an extra set of toes jutting out of his left foot.

As the days went by, we moved from recognizing appearances to sensing individual temperaments. Similar to their human cousins, every monkey is an individual in their own right. One old male monkey, Leaf Boy, caught our attention because of his penchant for sticking a leaf under his upper lip. He would go around the island walking with a leaf dangling from his mouth. It does not matter what kind of leaf it is as long as it hangs there. Admittedly, he looks pretty cool with it (in the human sense, that is). But the youngsters haven’t quite got the hang of it. So this leaf habit might end with him. Another is Pinocchio–he got his name from an old nasal injury–who is the only monkey on the island  able to figure out how to open a coconut. He would unhusk the coconut, throw it up in the air repeatedly until the nut cracks. This behavior too has not caught on with the troop.

Right now, we are recording each individual’s behaviors in the Psion. Hopefully, our effort will contribute more to the understanding of this species.

**note: all images are taken from various websites.

BBC’s Faulty Tarsier Video

Here is a video from BBC on the tarsiers of Bohol. Nice but faulty.

The nice part. I am glad to see Nong Lito Pizarras being interviewed. He knows these primates better than anyone. He has no graduate degree to his credit but his knowledge about the primate is worth a library of books. His experience working with tarsiers has proved indispensable in the conservation efforts of the Philippine Tarsier Foundation, Inc. Absolutely no tarsier research project has ever been done in Bohol without the help of Nong Lito. While graduate students have moved on, Nong Lito remains in Bohol, dutifully attending to the conservation demands of this primate species.

The faulty part. There are glaring errors in the BBC tarsier report. While the tarsier is indeed a fascinating primate, it is not the world’s smallest nor the oldest primate species as BBC contends. With regards to the claim that the tarsier is the smallest primate, Philippine tarsiers’ head and body length is 11.7-12.7 cm while its average weight is 67-112 g. Compare this for example to a mouse lemur species (M. jollyae), its average head and body length is at 5.3 cm and average weight is 61.3 g. Is the Philippine tarsier the oldest primate? A cursory look at fossil primates automatically disqualifies the tarsier as the oldest primate. Besides, primatologists are of the consensus that the Philippine tarsiers are more recent than the other tarsier species from Borneo and Indonesia. In a previous post, we noted that ” Philippine tarsiers may have migrated from Borneo through the Sulu archipelago, arriving sometime in the late Miocene to mid-Pleistocene.” Furthermore, there were a bunch of primate species whose existence can be traced back to the late Eocene like the lemurs of Madagascar.

The worst offense in the BBC video report is classifying tarsiers as marsupials. This completely removes the T. syrichta from the primate order. Tarsiers do not put their infants in a pouch but “park” their infants. Relative to the mother’s size, tarsiers have one of the largest infants in the entire animal kingdom (30% of the mother’s body weight). Mothers have to leave their infants in order to forage and then return to pick the infant up (this is called “parking”). I cannot imagine tarsiers having an over-sized infant inside a marsupium. This would render the primate immobile and break all the ankle bones of this vertical leaper and climber if it attempts to jump to the next branch. Suffice it to say that BBC, please, not all animals that leap are kangaroos.

Here is BBC’s video:

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more about “BBC’s Tarsier Video“, posted with vodpod

Interesting Philippine Tarsier Facts

1.          Scientists are in agreement that the tarsier lineage may have been in existence at least 40 million years ago during the Middle Eocene. This is based on a 40 million year old material from Fissures A & C at Shanghuang of Jiangsu Province, China. A fossil tarsier, Tarsius eocaenus, possesses a dentition similar to the teeth of modern Tarsius. Another fossil tarsier, Xanthorysis tabrumi, was also found in a Late Middle Eocene Heti formation, Yuanqu Basin, Shanxi Province, China. The next oldest fossil tarsiid is the Afrotarsius chatrathi from an early Oligocene sediments of Quarry M of the Jebel Qatrani Formation of the Fayum Province of Egypt. A. chatrathi exhibits a fused tibiofibula which indicates a mode of leaping locomotion the same as that of modern tarsiers. An early Miocene form was also found on northwestern Thailand, the Tarsius thailandicus (Simons 2003; Jablonski 2003).

2.          Primatologists posit that Tarsius syrichta is perhaps the most recent among the modern tarsiers. Dagosto et al (2003:246) argue that given the geologic history of the Philippine Islands and the amount and placement of emergent land during the Cenozoic, dispersal of tarsiers to the Philippines is very unlikely to have occurred before the late Miocene, and may have been much later.  In the Philippine context, islands inhabited by tarsiers today were located farther east and south of mainland Asia during the early Cenozoic, with no evidence of land bridges connecting these islands to the mainland. Dagosto et al (2003) believe that tarsiers originated from mainland China and later on dispersed overwater to Sulawesi and the Philippines. The Philippine tarsiers may have migrated from Borneo through the Sulu archipelago, arriving sometime in the late Miocene to mid-Pleistocene.

3.          Tarsiers have been an enigma for scientists because they share characteristics with prosimians as well as with anthropoids. For example, when in estrus, females have red swollen vulvas like Old World Monkeys, give birth to one large infant, but on the other hand, they have multiple (four to six) nipples, similar to lemurs and lorises.  After a six-month gestation, newborn infants can weigh up to 25-30 percent of the mother’s weight; males provide little paternal care, unlike other primate species that have large infants.  Females “park” their infants on branches, while they forage nearby (Wright et al. 2003).  Tarsiers can turn their head 180 degrees in both directions (Ankel-Simons 2000), they have very long legs, their tarsal bones are elongated (hence their name) and their tibia and fibula are fused (Wright et al. 2003).

Field Researchers at Work (photo courtesy of Dennis Bait-it)

4.          Behavioral and ecological data on tarsiers in the wild is rather difficult to obtain due to their nocturnal activity, small size, lack of tapetum lucidum, fast locomotion, and social organization (Gursky and Nekaris 2003).  The increasing use of radio telemetry has facilitated the collection of data on these nocturnal and “cryptic” prosimians (Gursky 1998a).  According to Gursky and Nekaris (2003), there is a new group of scientists who think it is important to document species-level differences among nocturnal prosimians so that broader correlations concerning ecology and behavior can be discerned.

5.           Although there is a debate concerning the number of tarsier species, most researchers agree that tarsiers are represented and formally recognized by five speciesTarsius bancanus, the Bornean tarsier; T. dianae, Dian’s tarsier; T. pumilus, the pygmy tarsier; T. spectrum, the spectral tarsier; and T. syrichta, the Philippine tarsier (Dagosto et al. 2003; Gursky 2002; Neri-Arboleda et al. 2002; Dixson 1998).  These species are grouped into two distinct phenotypic groups: the Philippine-Western group, from the Philippines and Borneo; and the Eastern group, from Sulawesi (Brandon-Jones et al. 2004).  Tarsiers have a limited geographical distribution in a few Southeast Asian islands (Neri-Arboleda et al. 2002).  Tarsius bancanus is found in Borneo and some parts of Sumatra.  T. dianae, T. pumilis, and T. spectrum are found in Sulawesi.  Dian’s tarsier is restricted to Sulawesi’s central lowlands, the pygmy tarsier to the central part of the island, and the spectral tarsier to the northeastern part of the island (Neri-Arboleda et al. 2002).  The Philippine tarsier is restricted to the Philippine islands of Bohol, Leyte, Samar, Maripipi, Biliran, Dinagat, Siargao, and Mindanao (Neri-Arboleda et al. 2002).

6.          According to Neri-Arboleda et al. (2002), there are several field studies of T. bancanus, T. spectrum, and T. dianae, but very few of the behavior and ecology of T. pumilus and T. syrichta (see also Dagosto 1998; Dagosto et al. 2003; and Wright 2003b).  There is not sufficient data to precisely determine the social organization of the Philippine tarsiers (Dagosto et al. 2001).  Because they have not been well studied in the wild and there are limited published observations regarding their ecology and behavior, T. syrichta is currently classified as “data deficient” by the IUCN-Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN website 2004).  Neri-Arboleda et al (2002) suggest that because of this lack of information on the Philippine tarsier, its status as “data deficient” should be maintained until further studies are done.

7.          A nocturnal habit makes possible the exploitation of uniquely nocturnal food resources and avoidance of diurnal predators. Modern tarsiers lack a tapetum lucidum but have a well-developed fovea in the center of an all-rod retina, where visual acuity is concentrated and visual image is intensified because of the dense arrangement of visual receptor cells (Jablonski 2003). Their dentition, which is almost similar in structure to that of the fossil tarsiers, favors a strictly insectivorous or carnivorous diet. In the wild, tarsiers prefer large bodied coleopterans and arthropods. The molars of the tarsiers are suited to breaking the exoskeletons of insects and the skeletons of small vertebrates, efficiently consuming the fats, protein, and carbohydrate-rich tissues of their prey by digestion.  Energy expenditure for the tarsiers is minimized by its low basal metabolic rates (which is 65% for the Philippine tarsiers) and low body temperature. Although this has not been studied yet, I also suspect that energy expenditure is minimized by daytime torpor, also observed among spectral tarsiers (Dagosto 2003; Gursky 2003).

________________________________

Sources:

Wright, P.C., Simons, E.L., and Gursky, S. 2003. Tarsiers: Past, Present and Future. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Neri-Arboleda, I., Stott, P. and Arboleda, N.P. 2002. Home Ranges, Spatial Movements and Habitat Associations of the Philippine Tarsier (Tarsius syrichta) in Corella, Bohol. J. Zool., London 257:387-402.

Gursky, S. 1998. Conservation Status of the Spectral Tarsier Tarsius spectrum: Population Density and Home Range Size. Folia Primatologica 69: 191-203.

Gursky, S. 2002. The behavioral ecology of the spectral tarsier, Tarsius spectrum. Evolutionary Anthropology 11: 226-234.

Gursky, S. and Nekaris, K.A.I. 2003. An introduction to mating, birthing, and rearing systems of nocturnal prosimians. Folia primatologica. 74: 241-245.

Beard, K. C. 1998. A new genus of Tarsiidae Mammalia: Primates from the middle eocene of Shanxi Province, China, with notes on the historical biogeography of tarsiers. Bulletin of Carnegie Museum of Natural History 34:260-277.

Tarsier-viewing in the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary, Corella, Bohol

Pacquiao-Cotto Fight: The Bayanihan Spirit Lives On

“Let’s meet at Macy’s. We’ll be there at around 11:30 where the fountain is at,” Edgar Guerzon replied in a chat message I left for him. I wanted to meet the Guerzon family after El Nuevo Dia, the number one newspaper in Puerto Rico, published a news feature soliciting their views on the Pacquiao-Cotto megafight.

Macy’s is at Plazas Las Americas, touted to be the biggest mall in the Caribbean. This mall is a huge box of concrete encircled with hundreds of cars of various shapes and colors. Inside the malls are shops similar to Ayala and SM except for the fact that the advertisements are all written in Spanish. It has the same feel of malls as elsewhere: a mecca of consumerism with long lines of stores that cater to any of your wants, real or imagined. In this case, however, I went there not as a mall customer but as a Filipino trying to connect with people whom I share a similar heritage and ancestry. Seated near the mall fountain were the Guerzon family and a few Filipinos assembled there to welcome an addition to the small Filipino community in Puerto Rico.

Later in the evening, I met more of them in a classy house nestled in one of Puerto Rico’s posh subdivisions right in the heart of Cotto’s hometown of Caguas. At least twenty-five Filipinos and their family members congregated there. Most of the men were at the sala watching the undercard fights on TV, while the women and children socialized at the host’s mini-clubhouse beside an avocado-shaped pool and jacuzzi. Traditional Filipino refreshments were served amidst the friendly bantering and conversations.

Zeny Kare, our host, said that there used to be more Filipino families living in Puerto Rico, the majority of which are families of Fil-Am US servicemen headquartered in the now-defunct US base of Ceiba. When the military base closed down, many of these families left and are now stationed elsewhere. Only the family of Col. Edwin C. Domingo, the decorated garrison commander of Fort Buchanan, stayed on and remains active in Filipino community activities (Col. Domingo was born in Sampaloc, Manila; see http://www.buchanan.army.mil/sites/commander/biography.asp for further details) .

Helping the boxers, Raising Pinoy Pride

At least two Filipino pugilists have visited the island to fight Puerto Rican fighters. Gerry Penalosa fought a gallant fight but was defeated against the youthful Juan Manuel Lopez for the WBO bantamweight crown. Noel Tunacao of Cebu also came and exchanged blows with Ivan Calderon but lost after an eighth round stoppage. Manny Pacquiao visited the island to promote his megafight against the Puerto Rican boxing superstar, Miguel Cotto.

These events were opportunities for the Filipinos here to gather once again and provide a much needed morale booster for the visiting boxers. Amidst hundreds of Puerto Rican fans rooting for their hometown gladiators, the few Filipinos here stood their ground and waved the Philippine flag for every wallop that our boxers delivered. Of course, like we would likely do, many of the Fil-Am residents here lined up for photo op and autograph signing chances with Manny Pacquiao. Many a boxing glove, t-shirt , and other personal mementos surrendered at the mercy of Pacquiao’s signature.

The Filipinos here did more than provide fan support. The visiting boxers were feted to the traditional Filipino hospitality. They were toured around old San Juan, a must-see world heritage site of Spanish-era forts, fortresses, and buildings (quite similar to our very own Fort San Pedro but older, bigger, and better conserved), and other tourist spots in Puerto Rico. The boxers were also welcomed in their homes and given places to rest, a much needed respite especially so after a taxing night on the ring.

Behind the Scenes

Noel Tunacao, the ex-IBO miniflyweight champ, fought against Ivan Calderon in 2005 at the Jose Miguel Agrelot Coliseum. The fight was very lopsided that Ric Solivan of DogBoxing.com describes it as follows:

“Calderón’s masterful boxing symphony in the opening rounds was as beautiful as it was deadly, his foe Tuñacao aimlessly wandered the confines of the ring receiving blistering combinations from every angle and stumbling around looking for something to hit to no avail. The ‘Iron Boy’ would not let up and instead, stepped up in his efforts to overwhelm and outbox his taller opponent, and it was quite clear by the 5th that the Filipino was frustrated and hopelessly looking for a miracle punch, one which would never arrive. “

Eventually, the Mandauehanon succumbed in the 8th round to the dismay (and probably relief) of the Filipinos who were watching the carnage at ringside. Yet the story behind the defeat is a sad commentary of the state of Philippine boxing.

As retold to me, Noel was ill-prepared for the fight and was said to be a surprise replacement for the bout. All that he had seems to be just the mere guts of a warrior and the steely resolve that he could will himself to win against a budding boxing superstar like Ivan Calderon.

Consider this: Noel came to Puerto Rico three days before the fight, tired and alone with no boxing entourage like Pacquiao has. He only brought with him some pieces of clothes and boxing paraphernalia tucked neatly inside his bag. Seeing that Noel got no one on his side of the ring—no cutman, coach, waterboy, or anyone—the Filipinos in Puerto Rico plucked several US servicemen from a nearby US base to assist his corner. “Pati masahista kami pa ang nagbigay, said one of the Filipinos who helped him.

While the tropical climate may be similar to that in the Philippines, the jetlag that Noel might have felt could be equally punishing for the 34-year old fighter. Puerto Rico is a dizzying 24-26 hour trip from Manila with lots of stops along the way (it was at least a 30-hour trip for me including the time spent for the layover at every connecting flight). “Nakakaawa talaga si Noel sa fight na yun”, she remembered.

The stories of Noel, Manny, and other visiting boxers are weaved into the lives of the Filipinos here in Puerto Rico. They are proud of Manny’s boxing genius and are equally proud of all of the Filipino boxers who carried the nation’s hopes and dreams with them despite the challenges thrown their way. I stared at Manny Pacquiao’s famous grin in his post-fight interview and said to myself, “Victory is sweet indeed. Salamat.

http://www.sunstar.com.ph/cebu/bayanihan-spirit-puerto-rico

So what happened to the Jane Goodall day?

Yes, I went with Jackie and Carla to hear what Jane Goodall has to say. Gabi, our two-year old daughter, was left in the day care center because they’re not allowing kids younger than four inside the venue (although it would have been awesome to catch a snapshot of Gabi with Jane Goodall).

We entered the university auditorium and rushed to open the doors of the hall. And there she was: seated at the speaker’s section wearing a grayish blue outfit quite similar to that of a Viet Minh fighter. Her appearance was austere but her bearing was regal. She stood up after she was beckoned to the podium and the audience fell into a momentary silence, not the kind of silence that you hear after a lion roars but of another kind, a pause like when one sees a flight of migratory birds heading to the west. Then, a torrent of applause came from the audience embracing this 75-year old conservationist as she stood in front of the microphone.

Jane began her talk with a rhythmic chimpanzee call, a fitting reminder that the woman before us is a consummate primatologist with 51 years of experience working with chimps. And she allowed her voice to glide as she recounted the process of her becoming a conservationist and researcher. She shared her concerns about climate change and the overall fate of the planet in general. But hers was not a message of doom but a stern jolt of reality that the world as we know it is in danger. Jane Goodall however is optimistic of our human potential, of our collective capacity to be agents of change, that we will eventually redefine our relationship with our ecosystem. In this view, she shared vital experience on how human communities, animals, and the environment need not be in conflict with each other. She pointed out how the modern world has failed to notice the wisdom imbibed in the sustainable practices of indigenous peoples around the world. Reading between the lines of what Jane Goodall was saying, I would also suppose that while she’s critical of the misuse of science, she embraces human rationality as the major, if not ultimate, component in addressing environmental problems: thus her repeated plea to “bring our brains together.”

Lest this blog be too winded, am posting Jane Goodall’s video here. Listen, reflect, and act.

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