If you have been following SavingWild.com you know I often write about my mentor and friend Dr. Jane Goodall.

Besides the obvious reason – Dr. Jane is a mentor for most of the people on the planet who care about wild animals and wild places – there are other, more intimate reasons why I write about her.

I have known Jane all of my life through a family connection (described below), and worked closely with her in my role as Africa Adventures Specialist for the Jane Goodall Institute.

I know we all love a glimpse into the real lives of our favorite celebrities so I hope you enjoy these.


Fun Bits about Jane Goodall I doubt you know:


1. Celebrity Friends

As you can imagine Jane has many celebrity friends who admire her and support her work. People like Pierce Brosnan, Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Howard Buffett, Angelina Jolie, Courteney Cox. 

And Jane Fonda. 

Jane Fonda and me at Dr. Jane's 80th Birthday Party.
Jane Fonda and me at Dr. Jane’s 80th Birthday Party.













The musician Dave Matthews is also a great fan of Goodall, and she of him. He even wrote a song for Jane and auctioned off one of his guitars to raise money for her work.

There is a photo of Dave and Dr. Jane together in a bathtub.It was an old claw-legged tub without plumbing that was sitting outside. No they were not naked.   

The photo was taken by another of Jane’s good celebrity friends, photographer Tom Mangelsen whom I wrote about recently. (Tom took the featured photo for this story of Jane in the red truck). 


2. Travel Schedule

Many of you may know that Jane Goodall travels about 300 days each year.
With that amount of traveling, and her celebrity status, you would think she would insist on flying first class on all of her flights. She doesn’t. She flies coach on flights that are two hours or less, and business or first on longer flights (usually sponsored by those individuals and organizations requesting her presence) .  


3. Simple and Basic

Although Jane is a world known celebrity, her life-style is simple and basic. Those that know her well are aware she doesn’t have a lot of possessions. She lives out of one piece of carry-on luggage and one checked bag when she travels, and spent years sleeping in a simple mosquito-net covered cot while living and working in Africa.


Saving Wild image
Jane’s bed at her house in Gombe Stream Park.












[Do you know what item Dr. Jane carries along with her wherever she goes? Leave your answer in the comment section below.]


4. Plants and Trees

Jane is famous for her work with animals, specifically chimpanzees, but she loves plants and trees. As a young girl she spent hours in her family’s garden, high up in her favorite birch tree reading books about Tarzan and Dr. Doolittle, and she recently wrote a book about plants called Seeds of Hope. 


5. Visits to Gombe

Jane Goodall rarely has time to visit the place where her work as a primatologist gave her worldwide recognition – Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania.

When she is there she takes time for herself. Following a simple breakfast of a banana and a cup of coffee she spends the day walking alone in the forest.


Saving Wild image
With one of my groups on safari in Gombe Stream sitting on ‘Jane’s Peak’













6. Home

Although Jane Goodall has three places she can call home – one in Gombe Stream (now a historical building owned by the Tanzania Park Services), one on the ocean in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and another, her families home where she grew up in Britain, she is rarely at any of them.


7. Grub

Jane has one son (from her marriage to Dutch photographer Hugo van Lawick) nick-named Grub, who has a home in Dar es Salaam next to his mom’s house.


8. Inspiration

Jane credits her childhood dog Rusty, and her mother Vanne, for giving her the inspiration and love that helped shape and inform who she is.


9. Vegetarian

It is probably not a surprise, considering her love of animals, that Jane Goodall is a strict vegetarian. There is a story that while eating in a restaurant Dr. Jane found a bug in a bowl of soup. Instead of returning the soup she gently retrieved the little bug and set it on a napkin to dry out it’s wings, thus saving the bug’s life. Then she carried on eating her meal. 


10. My Grandfather

Jane Goodall’s mother Vanne, was good friends with my grandfather, Denis Robinson. He, not Jane’s father, drove Vanne with baby Jane back from the hospital when Jane was born. Why my grandfather and not Jane’s own father? Because her father owned a fast car and Vanne thought the car too unsafe to carry baby Jane home. 


11. Favorite Cocktail

If you had Jane Goodall over for dinner and offered her a cocktail she would choose Whiskey. (And she loves chocolate according to a friend of mine who once gave her a box for her birthday).



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28 Replies to “Surprising Facts About Jane Goodall”

  1. Hi everyone, so glad you like the tide bits about one of my favorite people on the planet. And it sounds like many of you know Jane well – you answered correctly about what she always carries with her. Thanks for playing along.

  2. I think Jane is an amazing woman and a loving person, I hope some day I can meet her and thank her for all she does!

  3. Mr. H is not a chimp. He is a stuffed monkey. There’s a story behind it which you can watch dr. Jane explain on her website. 🙂

  4. Yes Liz, you got it perfectly correct. The person who gave her the stuffed animal mistakenly thought he was giving her a chimp but it has a tail and therefore is a monkey. Primates – chimps, orangutans, bonobos and gorillas do not have tails. Neither do we. Thanks for commenting.

  5. This woman made a difference with her passion and intentions. I hope to be just a fraction of Jane. She is the GOOD in ALL the world!

  6. Jambo,
    I worked at Gombe in the early ’70s. Is her house at Gombe, the one that George Dove and I oversaw the building of with fundis that George brought from Ndutu? The web page is great, but I don’t have time to check up on such places often enough.
    Oh, you will see from my email that I sell East African books.
    Nenda salama, Jerry
    Ps. My present area of interest is WW I in E. A..

  7. Jane has such a beautiful face. I am doing a portrait of her at the moment and hope I can capture the joy and compassion that I see there.

  8. Hi Gerald. The cement block house with screens and bars to keep the baboons out is in Gombe but now owned by the TZ Park Service. Nice to hear from you, Thanks for commenting.

  9. Jane, How wonderful that you are doing a portrait of Dr. Jane. I would love to see it when you are finished.

  10. Jane has a stuffed monkey I think named Mr. H that she carries with her. I hope one day I can meet her. I am bummed because I am moving to Pretoria to volunteer with monkeys for a year ad I am getting there in March but she has 2 events near Pretoria a month before I get there.

  11. I first discovered Jane Goodall and her work when I was about in 5th grade. By 6th grade I had researched all about what she does and did a book report on her and my chosen future career Ethology. I didn’t quite pursue that line of work but I did get a degree in biology and work as a zookeeper and wildlife rehabber. I presently teach. I also share her love to help all creatures, even bugs. I stayed in a hotel once where, upon entering, I found thousands of ladybugs swarming the large window. I think there were eggs on some flowers that got delivered, which then hatched. I didn’t tell the hotel staff because I knew they’d just spray the bugs dead, so instead of spent hours collecting them all into a glass, then walked outside with them. By this time they were swarming all over my hand that I’d used to stopper the glass, so when I lifted it they all took off in rows running up my hand and fingers. It was pretty incredible. Just think of all the karma I got that day 🙂

  12. Karla, I love your saving wild story. You sound like my type of person. So glad to hear from you. Thanks for making the world a better place.

  13. Mr. H accompanies Dr. Jane wherever she goes…my husband and I had the great pleasure of getting to know her while she was filming ‘Jane’s Journey’. Please send our warmest regards the next time you see her. A couple of hugs will also do nicely…from Ron and Donna Weidner.

  14. Love Love Love that you posted this! Love all the comments— — thank you thank you—–from a respectful admirer??????

  15. Amazing woman! I spent, as a longtime friend and her photographer, the last two days (5&6th of Dec’16) with her during a brief tour in the Netherlands. She keeps going on and giving talks and long lectures, sometimes twice a day. Shaking hands, hugging with fans, signing books, visiting Roots & Shoots projects, etc.

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