Sara Butzbach

Ever since I was young, I have loved nature and wildlife, and it is my wish to have this beautiful gift we have been given last so that future generations can fall in love like I did.  As human beings, we have a greater impact on the Earth and its inhabitants than any other living organism.  We hold the fate of the world in our hands and it is up to us to ensure that generation after generation can enjoy the wonderful biodiversity that the Earth has to offer.  This is my dream and to make my dream a reality, we must all work together to make smart decisions about how we use the resources we are given so that we can make them last.  We have this one Earth, and we must respect and share this world with all the creatures that inhabit it. 



The air smells fresh and sweet.  There is a cool breeze that softens the sunís hot, relentless stare and brings with it the symphony of sounds from the forest.  The soothing sound of water racing past rocks or falling on leaves create a base on which all of nature builds.  Birds chirp, leaves rustle, and insects hum.  These sounds combining to create a masterful arrangement of music, not even Beethoven himself could have written.  The blue of the sky and the greens of the forest create a beautiful backdrop to the performance that is taking place.  Each animal has a role to play and when each role is done together the delicate balance of life is kept in check, all nature in perfect synchronicity.  The Earth is alive and at this moment all of my senses are immersed.  I hear, smell, touch, taste, and see beauty all around me.  I breathe it all in and I know this is where I belong. 

The place I am describing is Mahale National Park in Tanzania, Africa.  This place is one of spectacular beauty, unparalleled by other places around the world.  Many species of animals call this place home including the chimpanzee.  These remarkable primates share many similarities, both behaviorally and genetically, with humans making them our closest cousins.  Watching them play and interact with each other and their environment made me realize just how closely we relate.  Observing chimpanzees at Mahale was incredible.  I have never felt that close to an animal before.  When I looked into their eyes, I saw depth and emotion.  It was as if I were looking into the eyes of another human being.  It was a profound moment in which I realized that these chimpanzees were part of my family.  It is a moment that will stay with me forever. 

Mahale is home to a great number of chimpanzees yet in the midst of this, the number of chimpanzees in the wild is still very small.  Mahale is a place where chimpanzees can live without the threat of death, be it through habitat lose, or over hunting.  By protecting the chimpanzees, Mahale is also protecting many other species of mammals, birds, plants, and fungus that can only be found in this small region of the world.  In the end, by protecting the chimps, other species will be protected and biodiversity will be allowed to flourish.  Chimpanzees are why I came to this part of the world, and I fell in love with them.  However, I also fell in love with the great biodiversity that can be found in Mahale.  I urge you to spend more time in nature, immerse yourself in it, and I guarantee that you will feel a deeper connection than you have before with the natural world, and if you get the chance to come to Mahale, make the trip.  This beautiful piece of paradise will help you fall in love with chimpanzees, biodiversity, and nature as a whole. 



Sweat drips off my forehead, my legs ache, and my lungs are working overtime to deliver much needed oxygen to my sore muscles.  However, none of this matters anymore because I am standing on a peak overlooking the lush, green hills of Gombe National Park.  The peak that I have arrived at is called Janeís Peak, named after Jane Goodall, the famous chimpanzee researcher who was the first one to study chimpanzee behavior in Gombe.  It was here that Jane climbed each morning to observe the sights and sounds of the forest below, and it is here now that I look upon the beauty that is before me.

Gombe is one of the smallest national parks in Tanzania, a lush, forest world amidst the world of humans.  However, even though the park is small, it holds something very precious Ė chimpanzees.  It was first Jane Goodall who came to study these amazing creatures at Gombe in 1960.  Since then, there have been many people following in the path of Jane, flocking to Gombe in order to observe and research the behaviors of the chimpanzees. 

While observing the chimps, it felt as if I were walking in Jane Goodallís footprints.  Watching the chimps she had talked so much about brought me back to 1960 and I was there with the young Jane.  I kept imagining what it must have been like for her then, alone in the wild with no idea how to begin her research and even what to research.  Like Jane, I became drawn to the mother/baby dynamic.  The motherís we observed were very protective over their babies and would come to their aide when the baby raised even the smallest alarm.  The young chimpanzees favored independence and would often explore their surroundings and play with other young chimps.  However at any sign of danger, they would go running back to their mothers.  This behavior reminds me of human mother/child interactions and cements further in my mind how closely related we really are.  These creatures are very special to me, as they are to Jane Goodall.  IN my heart, I know how important these chimpanzees are to our human identity and it is my goal to make this known in all hearts and minds, just as it is Janeís goal.  I want this indescribable beauty to remain undisturbed so that future generations can fall in love with the chimpanzees and other wildlife just as Jaen and I have.  I remember my experience at Janeís Peak and I hope that more people will experience what I have.  Looking out at vast beauty and biodiversity and realize that this place is a treasure and deserves to be saved and conserved for many people to enjoy. 


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