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ZooTeens fulfill old promise to Jane Goodall

Chimpanzee exhibit improved in a 23-year-old agreement

Oregon's ZooTeens are about to fulfill a 23-year-old promise to chimpanzee expert and conservationist Jane Goodall, dedicating Friday morning a new chimp interpretive exhibit in memory of her late husband.

In 1979, Goodall visited the zoo with her husband, Derek Bryceson, director of the Tanzania National Parks. Shortly after their visit, Bryceson died of cancer, and the zoo chose to dedicate its indoor chimp-viewing space to him, promising an interpretative area to showcase Goodall's work, and the zoo's chimpanzees.

Following a 1983 change in zoo administration, however, that promise was never kept.

Today, through the work of dedicated ZooTeens, who are also involved in Goodall's innovative Roots and Shoots program, the zoo is finally able to keep the promise it made so long ago.

'We had the honorable chance to fulfill a forgotten promise and to keep our commitments to Dr. Goodall,' said ZooTeen Matt Brown. 'I doubt that's an opportunity afforded to many teens throughout the whole country. We wanted to make sure this display was worthy of the history behind it.'

The new exhibit illustrates the progression of human understanding of primates from the 1960s through the present, highlighting Goodall's contributions to chimp observation, the Oregon Zoo's chimp family, and the dedication of Dave Thomas, the zoo's senior primate keeper and a good friend of Goodall.

'Being able to convey the historical significance of contributions from Dr. Goodall, Dave and the zoo is a rare chance,' Brown said.

In the 1970s, Goodall had a strong connection to the Oregon Zoo. She was featured in a 1973 public service announcement endorsing the formation of the zoo's governing agency - Metro - and was instrumental in helping the zoo find support to fund a large outdoor chimpanzee area to house all its chimps together.

When Dave Thomas, the zoo's senior primate keeper and a friend of Goodall, learned of an upcoming lecture by Goodall, he approached the ZooTeens and asked them to be representatives of the zoo's Roots and Shoots program. He also shared with them the promise the zoo made to Goodall and asked if they would be willing to help.

'I had no idea how they'd respond,' Thomas said. 'I did something I had never done before in talking to a large group. I shared my feelings about Dr. Goodall's work, my connection to the zoo's chimps, Dr. Goodall's interaction with us, and the promise made many years ago about building a chimp interpretative area. I told them I was doing this because I sensed something in them that could fulfill the promise. We needed to tell the public the history of our chimpanzees and the care they'd received over the years - and to show why it's important to do so much more for them.'

Thomas has been overwhelmed by the ZooTeen's response. The teens have worked on the project for a year, forfeiting $1,000 from their teen trips to other zoos to help fund the new exhibit.