In Good Company with Dr. Jane

Written By: Kari-Lyn Danyluk, JGI Canada Volunteer
Category: Dr. Jane

The Toronto Life write-up of Dr. Jane’s 83rd birthday party in Rosedale that took place on April 19th mentions the food that was prepared on-site by some of Toronto’s top chefs (delicious), the signature apple pie whiskey cocktail (surprisingly potent) and of course, the high-profile attendees; but after talking with many guests, it became very clear that the event was really about the personal connection so many people have with Dr. Jane.

G Adventures‘ CEO and founder Bruce Poon Tip with Dr. Goodall

For example, Verena Besso arrived with one of her most cherished possessions in hand, a laminated, hand-written original letter from 1992 that begins with:

and ends with:

Feeling unmoored after completing her graduate degree in 1992, Besso decided to travel to Tanzania with a friend. When a side-trip to see gorillas in the Congo was cancelled due to conflict in the region, the pair decided to visit the chimpanzees instead. They travelled for four days by train, 24 hours by bus, and then took a boat to finally arrive in Gombe – the location where Jane Goodall pioneered her research. Besso says the lush forest shoreline reminded her of the Muskokas. While on a five-hour walking tour with rangers the next day, they saw chimpanzee nests, watched a group hunt and kill a monkey, and were put in their place by a large male, who body-checked their male guide off the path.

“It was a very humbling experience to be in such close contact with the chimpanzees. It was clear that we were the intruders in their home, and that they ruled this habitat.”

At the end of the tour, Besso left a note for Dr. Jane in a visitor comment box. She wasn’t sure whether she’d get a reply at all, so was delighted when a few months later, a handwritten, two-page letter arrived. In it, Dr. Jane tells Besso about the work she’s been doing, and that she’d put her back out. Years later, Besso met Dr. Jane in person and showed her some of the photos from her trip. Dr. Jane knew each chimpanzee in the photos by name, and chatted with Besso about chimpanzee pregnancies and children as though they were members of her own family.

Dr. Goodall sharing a moment with Verena Besso.

I asked the generous party hosts, Tom and Nicole Antony, how they were connected to JGI Canada and Dr. Jane. Nicole replied that they hadn’t been previously, but that after meeting Dr. Jane and hearing her speak, they definitely will be now.

Dr. Goodall gifts Tom and Nicole a painting done by Lemba, a chimpanzee who lives at Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Centre.

Guests came from as far away as Moncton for a chance to meet Dr. Jane in person. Shelley Steep travelled from Kingston with her son Liam. Liam uses a wheelchair and has limited speech. Nevertheless, he and his mother are fearless travellers. Liam met Dr. Jane after hearing her speak in Ottawa, making her laugh with his imitation of chimp pant-hoots. Shelley’s was the winning bid on a G-Adventures trip from the Jane Goodall Collection, so she and Liam will be heading to Rwanda and Uganda in the early summer. Bon voyage Shelley and Liam! We can’t wait to see the pictures from your trip!

Dr. Goodall and Liam


The party raised $109K which will help support the Institute’s work in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Photo credits; header photo Amy Vee Photography, all other photos Ophir Sarusi