Melissa Grippin

I feel that it is important to give back to the Earth because we take so much from it.  We can do this by conserving wild places and wild things so that we can enjoy them in the future.  I want to do my part so that someday my childrenís children can see all the natural beauty in the world in real life and not just form books and pictures.  My hope is to inspire others from my wonderful experiences of traveling and the stories I have to tell of amazing animals I have seen and the wild habitat they call home. 




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. 


Content provided by Canisius College students under the direction of Michael Noonan, PhD.