Journey to the forests
Gombe National Park is home to the most well-documented chimpanzee population living in the wild. Over 50 years ago, Dr. Jane Goodall began her work here, and the legacy of scientific discovery continues to this day. Take a closer look.
Understanding & protecting chimpanzees
Years of research
HOURS OF OBSERVATION
Complete life histories
Walking through the forest we encounter Glitter with her daughter Gossamer on
her back. Mother chimps usually have 4-6 children, with about 5 years between
each baby. Twins are rare, although Glitter herself is a twin. Young chimps
spend the first 10 years of life with their mother, and for the first 3-4
years they enjoy piggyback rides like this.
Explore this place
This chimp is part of the G-Family and has a memorable name: Google. Named in
honor of the long-standing partnership between JGI and Google, this chimp is
part of the Kasakela community of chimps, one of three communities in Gombe.
Although there can be over 160 chimps in a community, they tend to spend
their time alone or in smaller groups.
Explore this place
Chimpanzees spend about seven hours a day eating, and when they're not eating
they rest, play and groom. They are highly social animals, and communicate
much like humans do: by kissing, hugging, tickling and holding hands. They
also scream and stomp their feet just like us! At night chimps build nests in
the trees to sleep in.
Explore this place
A day in the life of a chimpanzee
What is it like to live in the forest? Hang out with Gombe chimps like Glitter and
learn about the habits of creatures who
share 98% of our DNA.
Meet the creatures that live in Gombe
Like all forests, Gombe National Park is a
unique ecosystem made up of creatures of all
shapes and sizes. Get to know the neighbors.
Stand up straight! While chimps can stand on their hind legs, they are quadrupedal knuckle-walkers. They have dexterous hands and opposable thumbs like humans, but also have long fingers and large opposable toes that allow them to grip tree branches while they gather food.
Olive baboonPapio anubis
Friend or foe? While young baboons and chimps play together in childhood, as they get older the animals become less friendly. Baboons often seek the same food sources as chimps, and chimps will eat baby baboons. Unlike chimps, baboons love to swim, splash and play games in the water.
Watch where you walk! In the underbrush you may come across this scaly, venomous snake common to the Gombe forest. Chimps share the same fascination and instinctive fear of snakes that humans do. They even have a specific call (the 'snake wraa') that alerts other chimps to the presence of snakes in the forest.
It's got legs! Millipedes are known for the many legs that carry them across the forest floor, where they help decompose decaying plant matter, fungi, animals and insects. This arthropod's legs are also very important in its elaborate courtship ritual.
Gombe National Park is a strip of protected land nestled at the western edge
of Tanzania. Running along the shores of Lake Tanganyika, the park is a
combination of exposed grasslands and deciduous and evergreen forests. In the
forests of Gombe lives the longest-studied chimp population on Earth.
Explore this place
Chimpanzees are native to the forests of Central and West Africa, including
Tanzania. They live near trees because their diet is primarily fruit,
although they enjoy leaves, insects and small mammals (including monkeys).
Walking through a forest of chimps you’ll hear the call-and-response of
grunts and shrieks. Those ‘pant-hoots’ are the loud calls chimps use to identify
themselves and communicate with others.
Explore this place
In 1957, a 23-year-old Jane Goodall moved to East Africa from her native
England to pursue her childhood passion for African animals. She worked for
famous paleontologist Louis Leakey, who believed the study of primates could
unlock clues about early ancestors of humans. Jane's adventurous spirit lead
her to the forests of Gombe in July 1960, but it was her pioneering research
here that altered the course of modern primatology.
Explore this place
When Jane first moved to Gombe she lived in a tent with her mother, made her observations using second-hand binoculars and wrote notes with pencil and paper. She watched the movements of chimps throughout the day, taking notes on their daily habits and social structures. She soon realized the observations she was making challenged most conventional notions about chimpanzees.
At first the chimpanzees were shy around Jane, which made it difficult to conduct research. As time went on they habituated, or got used to her, and she was able to watch them closely, and even interact with them. She saw chimpanzees laugh, play, groom, forage and hunt. She also witnessed their violence, and even experienced a chimpanzee war. By living with them in the wild, Jane was uncovering the secret world of chimpanzees.
In her first year, Jane observed a chimpanzee named David Greybeard using blades of grass to extract termites from small holes. He was using the grass as a tool, something scientists had believed was unique to humans. Jane's observation revolutionized our thinking about the relationship between humans and the animal kingdom. We now know that chimps are humans' closest living relative, sharing 98% of our DNA.
Jane was a non-conventional animal researcher, in that she named her subjects instead of assigning them numbers. She established a naming system wherein babies are given names that start with the same letter as their mother's name. This family tree shows the members of the G-Family, which are part of the larger Kasakela chimpanzee community. Google, Glitter and Gossamer can now be seen in Street View.
In 1977 the Jane Goodall Institute was founded to build on the existing research in Gombe, and expand the reach of Jane’s scientific work and humanitarian vision. Today JGI’s mission goes beyond Gombe, as the organization strives to protect 85% of chimpanzees and their habitats across Africa. They are also engaging young people around the world in community conservation projects through the Roots & Shoots program.
Scientists at the Gombe Stream Research Center are working in partnership with labs across the world, including Duke University, to contribute to academic studies. Using the generations of research at Gombe as baseline data, scientists can predict how changes in habitat, social structure, and disease could potentially impact chimp populations. Studying chimps can also unlock clues about humans (e.g., studies of SIV in Gombe chimps has contributed to research on the HIV virus).
JGI has also invested in a community conservation program that empowers local people to build sustainable livelihoods while promoting regional conservation goals, like reforestation and ending the bushmeat trade. By investing in health and education, and offering trainings in resource management, agriculture and forestry, the CCC programs promote economic and cultural prosperity while protecting natural resources.
Protecting chimps means protecting their habitat, and that habitat extends outside the park boundaries. JGI is deploying GPS-enabled Android smartphones and tablets to local people and park rangers across Africa. These forest monitors are empowered to record and report wildlife presence and illegal human activities on the devices. The data is then uploaded into the cloud, analyzed using Google Earth Engine and shared with decision-makers.
When field data reported by forest monitors is combined with satellite imagery, conservation scientists are able to monitor the health of chimpanzee habitat on a large scale. Using innovative technology, these scientist are able to plan, implement and measure habitat conservation efforts. JGI is working to scale forest monitoring efforts across chimp habitat to allow local knowledge to be accessed globally.
With its unique ecosystem, thoroughly documented chimp population and more than 50 years of groundbreaking research, Gombe is a living laboratory. Discoveries made in the forests of Gombe are applicable to ecosystems all over the world. As a place of natural beauty, an important wildlife habitat and a hub of scientific research, Gombe truly is a place like no other.
The legacy of research
Before Jane’s observations in Gombe, it was believed humans were the only creatures on Earth that used tools. Gombe has been the hub of groundbreaking research ever since, led by the Jane Goodall Institute who focus on chimpanzees, conservation and community.
A message from Jane Goodall
When I went to Gombe, I set out to observe and learn about the amazing chimpanzees who make their home there. What I learned in my years of research at Gombe inspired and enriched me. I hope that your journey through this website and the Street View imagery takes you on a similar voyage of learning and discovery.
Through my time at Gombe and the years that followed, I learned first-hand how important it is for each of us to understand the world we share. Because only when we truly understand will we begin to care, and only when we truly care will we take action. This is how change happens. This is how we will make the changes we need to live in balance and harmony on this planet we all call home.
—Dr. Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE & UN Messenger of Peace
Founder, the Jane Goodall Institute
October 21, 2014