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Wildlife and Tribal Portrait Art
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Staying Wild with Jane Goodall: An Artist's Journey to Gombe
Flying from Dar Es Salaam to Kigoma, Gombe Stream National Park can only be accessed by boat via Lake Tanganyika. Lake Tanganyika is the longest freshwater lake in the world and the second deepest. Our arrival at Gombe is stunning as the lush mountain forest spirals down to the very edge of the lake’s shore.

Guided by Bill Wallauer, renowned videographer who filmed Gombe’s chimpanzees for Dr. Goodall, we hiked, climbed, scaled, slipped, and clung to the often steep and slippery slopes. Hearing the calls of wild chimpanzees solidified our resolve to continue. However, the rainforest had more in store and we were soaked by a 2 hour torrential downpour accompanied by thunder and lightning which halted us in our tracks. Wet, cold and near the end of a long first day, the chimpanzees still eluded us. But we were ultimately rewarded when we emerged from the forest to the view from Jane’s Peak. Before us was a panoramic view of the dense Gombe forest with Lake Tanganyika shimmering far below. It was striking to realize we were standing where Jane made some of her groundbreaking discoveries. Here we stand in her footsteps. I couldn’t help but wonder: What impact will our footsteps have?

Over the course of our time trekking we were rewarded with multiple chimpanzee encounters which provided a rich insight into their behavior in the wild, their complex social and family life and the uniqueness of the individuals who are one of our closest living relatives. But their safe haven here at Gombe is deceiving.

Chimpanzees are Endangered. Their primary threats include not only habitat destruction, but the bushmeat trade, the pet trade, and disease. I had the privilege of joining Dr. Goodall in the Republic of Congo in 2015 at her Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center called Tchimpounga. It was founded to care for orphans who were rescued from poachers. They arrive sick, traumatized and often close to death. I will never forget looking into their eyes. I understand the depth of their loss and suffering more than ever after being with wild chimpanzees at Gombe.

Reluctantly stepping back on the boat to begin our journey home, the forest lays before me. It is a vivid reminder of the biodiversity which lies within and resources which sustain us all. It is a reminder to stay wild.


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