Jane Goodall’s original tale of chimpanzees still astonishes today

National Geographic revisits Jane Goodall’s iconic 1963 article about the chimpanzees of Gombe Stream Game Reserve.

The sun's fading glow on Lake Tanganyika silhouettes the author, who is preparing for a lonely, nightlong vigil among the cimpanzees.
Photograph by Baron Hugo van Lawick

Up on the mountains the midday sun glared fiercely, but down in the valley near the swift-running stream it was cool and still. I stood listening until I heard a faint rustling of leaves—the only sound to betray the presence of the group of chimpanzees I was trying to approach.

Slowly and quietly, but making no attempt to hide, I moved toward the great apes until I was only 30 feet away. As I sat down, they watched me, staring rather hard, and a young female who had been lying on the ground climbed a little way up a tall fig tree.

One of the males stood upright to watch more closely. He was a superb specimen, standing about four and a half feet in height, his massive shoulders and bull neck suggesting the tremendous strength in his arms. He must have weighed a good 130 pounds, and he was strong enough to snap with one hand a branch so tough that a man would be hard put to break it with two.

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