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Science & Tech

Chimpanzee Development & Learning

Dr. Jane Goodall

Lesson time 11:58 min

Hear about the family bonds and infant development that Dr. Jane discovered while observing chimp families.

Dr. Jane Goodall
Teaches Conservation
Dr. Jane Goodall shares her insights into animal intelligence, conservation, and activism.
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I discovered that the bonds between family members are very strong and very long-lasting. Chimpanzees can live in captivity over 60 years. In the wild, 50 is pretty old, because they get internal parasites. Their teeth get worn, and they get sick and so forth. But the mother has her first child when she's about 12, 13. She then only has one child, if the child lives, every five years on average. Sometimes it's shorter. When the next baby is born, that older child is five or six, it doesn't immediately leave and become independent. Not at all. That older child is still emotionally very dependent on the mother, still travels with her and the younger brother or sister, and so the bonds between mother and offspring get stronger, and the bonds develop between the brothers and the sisters. These bonds can last throughout life. So it was fascinating to find that in chimp society, just as in human society, there are good mothers and not so good mothers, very few actually bad mothers, because there's clearly non-adaptive. But the good mother is affectionate, she's protective, but she's not overprotective. She is playful, and, in fact, it was one of the things when I was watching the chimp mothers enjoying their infants that I vowed that when I had my own child, I would have fun with my child like they seemed to be having fun with theirs. But the most important thing was supportive, just like my mother. So if you're a supportive mother, and your infant starts playing with another infant, whose mother is dominant to yours, and a fight breaks out, and you scream, because you are hurt, the good mother, the supportive mother will run in to protect you, even though that means she's liable to be attacked by the dominant mother of the playmate. And we now know looking back over all the years that the offspring of the supportive mothers, the good mothers, tend to do better. So the female will be a better mother and a more successful mother, and the male is more likely to rise higher in the dominance hierarchy, because they feel secure in themselves because of this support they have. And as the family grows, then there is also support from the older brothers and sisters, and it's quite a close knit family unit for a great deal of the time. And that aspect of chimp behavior, the development of the child has always really fascinated me. And it was the first aspect of chimp behavior that fascinated science, not the ethologists. It was the human child psychologists like John Bowlby and Rene Spitz, who became fascinated by my observations of early childhood development. The childhood period is long. It's much longer than most mammals. Our human children, we have a long childhood. The chimp child is suckling for five years, although gradually less often, is riding on the mother's back in travel, although gradually less often, is sharing her nest at night until the birth of...

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There is still a window of time. Nature can win if we give her a chance. In her first ever online class, Dr. Jane Goodall teaches how you can conserve the environment. She also shares her research on the behavioral patterns of chimpanzees and what they taught her about conservation. You'll learn how to act locally and protect the planet.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Jane is amazing and so inspirational. She's also such a thorough, well-spoken instructor. This course was a delight.

I completed this master class along with two of my home schooled children (grades 1 and 7). We enjoyed learning from Jane Goodall. Her manner of speaking and storytelling is very relaxing and pleasant. We especially appreciated what we learned about our role in caring for the earth.

Jane's stories that touch on the human heart and human experience have such a big impact compared with learning about the environment through facts and figures. It's an excellent example of how to go about moving through the world as a positive influence on others.

Jane's sharing her own indomitable spirit coupled with those of extraordinary people she has met was inspiring


Gloria M.

I enjoyed the whole lesson. It showed me how similar chimpanzees behavior are like humans. Some parts of the stories were sad, but very enjoyable. When Jane speak of the advantages its like you can see yourself their too. Thank you for allow me in your journey.

Diane H.

Jane Goodall is so articulate in her presentation when describing chimpanzee behavior. She has provided so much information about how similar chimpanzees are to humans (the good and the bad).

A fellow student

Fascinating. I've heard it before, but when Jane Goodall tells it this way it creates a completely different perspective.

Bernardo F.

Amazing, the fact that we begin to accept that other species can have such things as culture, intelligence, learning, etc. just make us (or at least it should) understand that we're just another one of those animals, we humans have been dropping from a ladder we made thinking that we're superior to any other, and we're not... just different.

Antonia T.

So, the mothers are the ones who fully take care of their children... They have the hardest job. Male chimps behave just like "sperm donors". Sadly, as a species, in many cases, we are not very different from the chimps...


wish I had 10% of her courage. I didn't but after watching this inspiring film, I now know better of what it takes to make a difference in the world. Thank you Dr. Jane for being my inspiration.

Jackie M.

I liked it very much. I have great respect for Jane Goodhall and all she has done to help humans learn how we are so closely connected to animals. She is a treasure.

Julia A.

I am struck by how similar the range of emotions are in both chimps and people, from violent rage to gentleness and altruism.

A fellow student

On this planet we are like mothers to them.. we gotta protect them... These stories are so fascinating..


fascinating... I remember being in school when it was discovered that other animals used tools.