Our closest biological relatives, the chimpanzees, have been granted one more step in their journey towards continuing existence. The Jane Goodall Institute received a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) that totaled in excess of $5.5 million, for work that began on Jan. 4.

So who is she and why does Jane Goodall care about the chimps?

Jane Goodall is the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees. In addition to being an English UN Messenger of Peace, primatologist, ethologist and anthropologist, she has spent 45 years studying the animals' social and family interactions in Tanzania.

The newly received grant will allow the Jane Goodall Institute to expand its existing community-centerd conservation programs in western Tanzania, home to one of the most important populations of chimpanzees in the world.

A press release dated Jan. 5 says, “We are truly honored that USAID has awarded us this grant,” said Dr. Jane Goodall, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute. “These funds will allow us to broaden our efforts to help local people in an underdeveloped area improve their lives and thus enable them to become our partners in protecting valuable ecosystems and the chimpanzees and other species that depend on them.  The award speaks to the professionalism and dedication of our Tanzanian team on the ground.”

To date, the institute’s efforts have resulted in:

  • More than 87,000 hectares of village forest being placed under protection by villagers;
  • The development of detailed land-use plans by residents for 21 villages across the two ecosystems;
  • The adoption of more sustainable agricultural practices by 40 percent of the farmers in the GGE;
  • The generation of more than $400,000 in additional income for coffee farmers organized in cooperatives around Gombe National Park;
  • The creation, training and support of 17 micro-credit associations;
  • The creation of more than 70 school-based environmental education clubs involving more than 5,500 young people.
During the next four years, the program will focus on improving forest management and further study into the root causes of the loss of biodiversity in the region.

To get a sense of how impressive Jane Goodall is, check out her recent interview with Jon Stewart:

  

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Also on MNN: A review of Jane Goodall's latest book.