Saturday, May 15, 2010
It was on a sunny spring morning in 2007 at the National Zoo that I met Devra for the first (and last) time. I felt so honored when she let me go with her into the newly constructed enclosure of a family group of golden lion tamarins. They are, of course, exquisite. Like jewels, improbable. And as I watched them, leaping easily from branch to branch, I felt a rush of gratitude to Devra for all the hard work and sheer determination that had prevented these glorious little beings from joining the dodo, and a growing number of other creatures, on the list of extinct species. Now as I write this, in my home in faraway Bournemouth, I think back to that April day when Devra introduced me to that little family. I remember how the adult male approached Devra, paused, then reached out to take a piece of fruit. It was, for me, a magical moment, symbolizing the trust of a very small primate for the woman who has worked so passionately to prevent his enchanting species from vanishing forever from Planet Earth.
During our discussion afterwards Devra recalled, with a smile, some advice she was given at the start of her work: “Don’t get involved with tamarins. They are going extinct – it will be bad for your career.” It was fortunate for all of us, especially the golden lion tamarins, that she chose to ignore that advice and take the path her heart dictated.
Her untimely death is shocking, and I was incredibly saddened when I heard the news. Conservation has lost a real giant and her family and friends have lost a warm, dynamic and courageous human being. But her legacy lives on deep in the Brazilian rain forest and the mysterious stands of bamboo in the mountains of China. She will not be forgotten.
Jane Goodall Ph.D., DBE
Founder – the Jane Goodall Institute &
UN Messenger of Peace