Renowned conservationist at ecosanctuary

University of Otago's Prof Phil Bishop escorts Dame Jane Goodall and her travelling companion ''Mr H'' into Orokonui Ecosanctuary yesterday, followed by Dunedin pupils, members of her Roots and Shoots movement. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
University of Otago's Prof Phil Bishop escorts Dame Jane Goodall and her travelling companion ''Mr H'' into Orokonui Ecosanctuary yesterday, followed by Dunedin pupils, members of her Roots and Shoots movement. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Whether it is gale-force winds or a reptile crawling up her arm, little fazes intrepid conservationist Dame Jane Goodall.

The 80-year-old did not blink an eyelid when asked to brave the stormy conditions to plant a tree inside Orokonui Ecosanctuary's windswept enclosure yesterday.

Instead, she put on a beanie and headed outside, trailed by 20 pupils from six Dunedin schools who make up the first Roots and Shoots group in New Zealand.

Dame Jane started Roots and Shoots, a hands-on humanitarian and environmental programme aimed at young people, which is run in 130 countries by the Jane Goodall Institute.

She is in Dunedin as part of an international tour marking her 80th birthday and will give a talk tonight at the Regent Theatre. All proceeds from this talk go towards the youth initiative.

As a special treat for the woman renowned for her work with the Gombe chimpanzees, Orokonui brought in a tuatara, one of New Zealand's endemic ancient reptiles that has been released into the ecosanctuary, for her to see.

While keen to hold the tuatara, she was perturbed to hear its only name was J58. Dame Jane faced controversy early in her career for naming the chimpanzees she worked with.

''Then it should be Jane 58, of course,'' she said.

As it would be about 20 years before it was known if it was boy or girl, the ecosanctuary had been looking for a gender-neutral name.

''How about Dr J,'' she suggested before kissing the tuatara goodbye.

Dame Jane had some words of advice for the pupils watching her every move.

''You have to look after them better than your forefathers.''

Tuataras were released into the ecosanctuary about two years ago, after an absence on the mainland of 300 years.

''It's the most significant transfer we'll probably ever do,'' ecosanctuary conservation manager Elton Smith told Dame Jane.

- rebecca.fox@odt.co.nz

 

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