When I was younger, I
would dream about the wilds of Africa that I could only
read about in books and magazines. This continent has
always held a special place in my heart and now that I
am actually here, the memory will forever be with me.
As I sit writing this, I
am looking out over Mahale on the shores of beautiful
Lake Tanganyika. The lake itself is a wonder all on its
own, with the hundreds of species of cichlid fish which
have evolved here over a rather short period of time. I
actually got to see these fascinating fish with my own
eyes while snorkeling. Although I only saw a small area
of the lake, I counted at least ten different species of
cichlid, which really shows how diverse and amazing this
lake really is.
Cichlids arenít the only
thing to find at Mahale, it is actually most famous for
its amazing chimpanzee population. I was fortunate
enough to see chimps all three days that we spent here
and each of those days was more wonderful than the
last. It was incredible to watch chimps in their
natural habitat and interact with each other. It is sad
to think that these highly intelligent cousins of ours
are highly endangered.
I want to help protect
chimpanzees so that someday I can bring my children and
grandchildren to see them in their natural habitat and
not just in captivity. I feel as though these animals
have become part of me and I will continue to support
Mahale and these amazing chimpanzees.
Traveling to Gombe
National Park and walking in Jane Goodallís footsteps is
something I never thought would happen. I now
understand her love of Gombe and what drives her to
protect and conserve chimpanzees all across Africa.
Although Gombe is the
second smallest national park in Tanzania, it is
extremely important because it holds about 100 chimps.
Chimpanzees are an extremely endangered species and
every one individual that is protected matters to keep
the species alive and healthy. I was glad to hear that
some money from the ecotourism that occurs at Gombe is
sent to the villages surrounding the park. This gives
the people a sense of pride and a need to protect the
park which in turn preserves and protects all of the
living things in it, including the chimps.
It is very important to
protect both the forest and animals living there because
they both rely on each other. Some plants cannot grow
unless their seeds have passed through an animalís
digestive system. Chimps rely on those plants for food;
so it is shown that one cannot live without the other.
The chimpanzees which
live within the forests of Gombe have been made famous
by the work and commitment of Dr Jane Goodall. Today
there are still amazing individuals at Gombe both
researching the chimps and other animals, and also
spreading the word of conservation. After spending just
a short time with the group that Dr Jane studied and
came to love, I too have fallen in love with them and
was very excited to see some of the individuals I have
only read about or seen on tv. Much like humans, each
chimp has their own unique personality. Chimps arenít
so different from us and losing them would be like
losing members of our own family. My hope is that we
will protect our cousins and therefore protect a part of
ourselves as well.