Dr Jane Goodall, the coronavirus, and #KindUsefulAwesome

23 March 2020

#KindUsefulAwesome Jamie Joseph writes… As the world goes into shutdown in the wake of COVID-19, Saving the Wild is launching a new story series: ‘Be kind, useful and awesome’, and we would like our community to contribute to this.

Right here, right now, is the great equalizer. How we respond to this global crisis will define who we are as a generation, as a humanity, and as an individual. 

It was the horrific trade of wildlife that sunk us into this pandemic, and yes, for a brief moment in time the wild got a break with China and then Vietnam shutting down the trade. But conservation is hurting right now, really hurting. And without tourism and funding, poaching is going to spike. We are in big trouble. 

Economies are collapsing, there is unimaginable job loss, children are being kept from school, and the thought of not being able to support one’s family is terrifying. We can either panic into an isolation meltdown, or we can support each other, dive deeper into the sea of compassion, and rise like a wave of change. We need to become creative in a restricted space. We need to look after our loved ones, and our neighbours, and we need to look for the light in the darkness. 

My mother cares for the aged, these beautiful, wise humans who have seen so much in their 80+ years on this fragile earth. She is on the frontline now, and I have to accept that she is in a high risk situation, like countless others. Ordinary people everywhere are rising to be heroes. From care workers to doctors and scientists and the service industry, we are so grateful, and we need to let these people know how much their sacrifice means to us. 

And if there is anything we can do, as an individual, to be kind and useful and awesome, let’s do it! From tomorrow we are going to start sharing stories from around the world using the #KindUsefulAwesome hashtag.

We can beat this virus, if we are smart, if we isolate and contain it, and if we stay positive. 

Thank you, good humans, thank you so much.

Saving the Wild makes a #KindUsefulAwesome post for every day in lockdown

#KindUsefulAwesome posts include:

  • Dozens of Thai #elephants ‘set free’ as chairs used to carry tourists are scrapped in wake of #COVID-19
  • Ocean School online with SeaLegacy & National Geographic photographer, Cristina Mittermeier, acknowledged as one of the most Influential Women in Ocean Conservation in 2018 by Ocean Geographic. 
  • Young climate change #activist Greta Thunberg says it was “extremely likely” she had the #coronavirus and she urged the public to #StayHome. She is on the cover of Rolling Stone for a special climate crisis issue.
Dr Jane Goodall. Photo credit: Jane Goodall Institute

3 April: Dr Jane Goodall turns 86

#KindUsefulAwesome Jamie Joseph writes…Today (April 3rd) is Dr Jane Goodall’s 86th birthday, and like most of the world “at home”, Jane is in lockdown at her family home in Bournemouth, UK. This time last year I was lucky enough to join Jane in Los Angeles for her very special birthday celebrations. A film production company had reached out to me and flown me to LA for a film project about Jane, to be released later this year. It was my opportunity to talk about how Jane had championed Saving the Wild’s work over the years and show my deepest appreciation for her enduring support. 

The birthday party was an intimate occasion, no cameras, just twenty of us huddled up in a hotel room, sipping on whisky and singing songs with friends on guitar. And lots of unforgettable storytelling. I’ve never spoken about that night, and maybe I never will, but there was one story Jane shared that I’d like to share now, in honour of Jane’s legacy during these troubling times. 

Prior to her US tour, Jane had visited Sierra Leone, which was one of the chimp-range countries she visited in 1987 to learn more about chimp conservation throughout Africa. Keep in mind this was not long after Jane made the heart-wrenching decision to leave her wild life in Gombe, and begin travelling the world in a greater effort to conserve wild chimpanzees and other animals. On that 1987 trip she met Bala, and sort of half-jokingly encouraged him to create a sanctuary for chimps in Sierra Leone, which he did together with his wife. He saved many orphaned infant chimps confiscated by the government from the illegal bushmeat trade. He protected them through the 10-year civil war. He continued to keep the chimps safe during the Ebola outbreak. 

Last year when Jane visited Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary she was blown away by how wonderful it was; rated one of the very best in Africa. Bala had also nurtured good relations with government officials in an effort to promote environmental tourism and save some of the country’s precious forests. The Sierra Leone government actually wants to save these last wild places, and tourism is a way to provide livelihoods for local impoverished people. During Jane’s visit, the President of Sierra Leone gifted her the Order of the Rokel, the country’s highest civilian honour, and together they spurred on the country’s leadership to declare the protection of the environment and wildlife as a top priority. The chimpanzee was also declared to be the official animal of Sierra Leone, thought to be home to around 10 percent of the estimated 55,000 chimps left in the wild. This was an instant elevation of chimp awareness, with their image to be found even on bank notes. All that happened during Jane’s four-day visit…we call this Jane Magic.


This virus only exists because some humans think it’s okay to keep wild animals in cages, filthy disgusting conditions, worse than any kind of prison known to man. Humans perpetuated the virus, and worse, it appears humans can pass the coronavirus onto chimpanzees and other great apes; orangutans and gorillas. 

Everyone is talking about the coronavirus, but very few people understand, or take the time to understand its origins, and the real way forward. Most people are stuck in the moment of washing hands and social distancing. That will not save us in the long run.

If we do not take the lessons from the past, we are doomed to repeat. If it’s not HIV, it’s ebola, or SARS, or the coronavirus, OR THE NEXT THING…

To save ourselves, what we really need is a global ban on wildlife markets, and, more importantly, political will which enforces the ban. I am sure Jane would agree, this would be the best birthday present ever. 

So please, let’s wish Jane a very happy birthday and let’s all be custodians of the wild, and use our own social media platforms to put some key messaging out there. Only through education can we adapt and evolve. Because the greatest super-power in the world is still public opinion. 


‘Be a real superhero’ t-shirt design by 8-year old Juiet Duff (left)

4 April: #KindUsefulAwesome #NewZealand OUT THIS WEEKEND IN DOMINION POST: Juliet Duff is an 8-year-old wildlife warrior from Crofton Downs Primary School in Wellington. In December, Stuff reported she had fundraised and raised awareness at her school to help the charity Saving the Wild, run by international wildlife advocate Jamie Joseph, and even scored a visit from Jamie. 

Now Juliet, pictured with her mum and little brother, has stepped up her fundraising and designed an ethically made t-shirt, with a portion of every sale going to the charity. You can help Juliet support Saving the Wild by ordering a t-shirt online at tinyurl.com/savingthewildshirts.

“I feel very blessed that Juliet and her family have chosen to champion Saving the Wild. There is nothing more refreshing than to watch a child’s star rising. The future of the wild is with her generation, and she will be a great leader one day. What a gift it is to part of this journey of compassion and discovery. Thanks to everyone out there who supports Juliet.”
-Jamie Joseph


SsangYong New Zealand RHINO in support of Saving the Wild

Conservation is taking a huge knock right now – the cause of the #coronavirus being the illegal trade of wildlife, and the knock on effect is now dwindling funds as economies collapse and donors retreat.

Saving the Wild would like to take this moment to thank our awesome partner SsangYong New Zealand RHINO for supporting us through the good times, and especially during the bad times.

In line with our mandate to protect the black rhino gene pool, we recently made a donation to African Wildlife Vets. This will cover the feed for the black rhino orphans under the care of Dr Dave Cooper well past the COVID-19 lockdown weeks. Ultimately our goal remains the same: for the orphans to be released into a safe haven and live out a life that is wild and free.

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