SAVING THE WORLD WITH CHIMPS

On Thursday, June 14th, the Department of Public Information/Non-Governmental Organizations (DPI*NGO) of the United Nations in collaboration with the Jane Goodall Institute and Disneynature hosted a screening of Disneynature’s newest True-Life Adventure “Chimpanzee.” In true Disney-like fashion with panoramic vistas of African sprawling forests, windswept clouds, crackling lightning storms and microscopic night creatures, we followed the story of a young chimpanzee named Oscar coming to terms with the loss of his mother, Isha, and his unusual adoption by the leader of the group, Freddy.

We learn that to a chimpanzee, “making a living” means finding food which can be anything from nuts to fruit to meat. This quest for food, the true means of survival, spotlights behaviors that remind us of us. The chimpanzees use rocks to break open nuts, hone branches into fishing poles to scoop out yummy termites from the inside of tree trunks. In fact, it was this attribute, the making and use of tools, that caused Jane Goodall, chimp pioneer of yore, to suggest a link between chimpanzees and human beings. This in turn prompted her boss at the time, Louis Leakey’s now famous response: “Now we must redefine tool, redefine Man, or accept chimpanzees as humans.”

Life isn’t all fun and games, however, in the forest. There is the constant threat of a rival chimp group which is strategizing to horn in on Oscar’s group’s territory or leopards prowling at night, looking for their dinner. The Disney photographers are genius in capturing this story. And narration by Tim Allen provides just the right amount of humorous pathos to the evolving story.

Afterwards, we listened to Alice Macharia, program director of Africa Programs at the Jane Goodall Institute give a description of initiatives occurring in Tanzania, Uganda and the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. A variety of methods are implemented to protect the endangered species of chimpanzees through sustaining efforts of environment and community lifestyle. What began as a conservation/wildlife focus has grown into a community effort with people learning how to better their own lives as they grow in consciousness for bettering the environment. All from beginning with a mission to save the chimps!

Shawn Sweeney, national manager of youth outreach and engagement for the Jane Goodall Institute followed to describe the Institute’s global environmental and humanitarian youth program, known as Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots. The mantra, “What it takes to save a species is what it takes to save the world,” speaks to the Institute’s efforts to engage young people in leading local projects that improve the environment and quality of life for people and animals. This holistic approach of knowledge, compassion and action fosters a spirit of engagement and compassion to address the well-being of people, animals and the environment. Roots and Shoots is in 120 countries and is growing everyday. They have a healthy online platform…www.rootsandshoots.org.

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