More than 98 percent. It is the percentage of DNA that humans share with gorillas and chimpanzees. It is not just a question of genetic affinity and chromosomes, but cultural and, if the word does not seem excessive, of humanity. If we protect – rightly now even with strict laws – dogs and cats against mistreatment, all the more reason we should do it with “the living beings most similar to us, who have an intense relational and emotional life, different personalities, complex behaviors and awareness of self”. Starting from these assumptions, Jane Goodall, UN messenger of peace, sent the government a proposal to guarantee minimum criteria for the management of great apes in Italian zoos and nature parks.
Jane Goodall is a living myth in the world of environmentalism. The 86-year-old English anthropologist is one of the leading chimpanzee experts, who began studying in the field in Kenya in the 1950s under the guidance of Louis Leakey, who conducted excavations in the Olduvai Gorge with his wife Mary in search of remains. fossils of hominids, a family to which we belong together with the great anthropomorphic apes. Leakey chose three female researchers, at that time a non-conformist and avant-garde decision as it was all her life, to study in depth three of the four species of apes existing in nature and discover their links on the one hand with the ‘Homo sapiens and on the other with the fossil remains that he unearthed in the arid areas of the Rift Valley in Africa, where about 6 million years ago the separation between the chimpanzees and the evolutionary line that led to us took place.
Leakey called the group of scholars The Trimates, an untranslatable English pun that combines the number three, primates and mates (companions, colleagues). The trio became known as Leakey’s Angels and included Dian Fossey, who devoted herself to gorillas (murdered in 1985 in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda), Biruté Galdikas to orangutans, and Jane Goodall to chimpanzees. “I met Jane for the first time in Gombe, Tanzania, where in 1960 she had founded a research center on the life and behavior of chimpanzees in nature,” recalls Daniela De Donno, president of the Jane Goodall Institute Italia, an organization that formulated the proposal presented to the Italian government together with the British ethologist. «I was immediately struck by her tireless will, her desire to work in favor of nature and spurred me to found the institute dedicated to her in 1998. Just a few months ago it was his push to make me continue through the obstacles to get to put pen to paper the idea of integrating the legislative decree of 2005 concerning the care of wild animals in zoos also to anthropomorphic monkeys ».
The welfare of the species
Apart from the minimum requirements such as suitable environments, the request to recreate “social” groups that reflect the situation in nature, to safeguard the physical and psychological well-being of the animals and to facilitate behavior appropriate to the species, stands out. Therefore an individual should never be isolated from the group and babies should never be separated from their mothers without a valid reason. Assuming that animals should be in their environment and zoos in principle should not exist, Jane Goodall herself admits that, at times, nature parks have proved crucial in saving species that would have gone extinct in the wild.
The data in Italy
According to data from JGI Italy, there are 49 chimpanzees in our country (23 from kidnappings), a gorilla and two orangutans. There is the case of Bingo, coming from a circus and then for over 30 years kept in complete isolation in a public park in Livorno. Jgi Italia has re-educated Bingo to socialize and communicate. He is now in the Netherlands and has been sharing his life for about four years with another chimpanzee, waiting to be transferred to Spain to live in an environment more suitable for him. “Our proposal will serve to avoid other dramatic cases such as that of Bingo,” adds De Donno. We owe it to those who share 98.63% of the genetic heritage with us.
January 11, 2021 (change January 11, 2021 | 09:32)