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Be A Doer

My way of saying thank you to Dr. Jane Goodall. A tribute from one out of a million "working ants" inspired by the most beautiful heart and mind of our time.

Photo courtsey the National Geographic Society

“Be a doer!” As a little girl I could not quite figure out what my parents meant. They repeated those words to me like a mantra, just like they repeated: “Be curious, always ask yourself why!” In the meantime my life was surrounded by books. Novels, poetry, history, politics, phylosophy, filled our bookshelf. I remeber sitting crosslegged on the floor, picking out the ones with the most interesting titles and reading the chapters that captured my attention. It’s something I still do when I have the opportunity to fly from Italy to Canada to visit my family. One of my all time favorites was “On the Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin. Our version was in Italian. My father had immigrated to Canada at the age of 13. His passion for reading led him to collect titles in both languages, allowing me to become bilingual.

On the other hand, my relationship with television was based on habit. As a family, winter evenings were spent watching movies and documentaries. That’s when I fell in love with wildlife, that’s how I engaged my first “doer”, the first role model of my young life: Dr. Jane Goodall. I grew to love her to the point that I would play being Dr. Jane! It’s hard not to smile when I think of myself dressed up like her, crouched behind a tree looking for insects in the grass to talk to and study. I had to settle for potato bugs and ants most of the time since we lived in a city, and the chances of running into wild animals were scarce, to my dismay. In time though, I came to understand that even those tiny creatures had their purpose on the planet we have the luxury of sharing with so many different animals.

Here’s but one of example of footage that had the power of keeping me glued to the screen as my childhood instincts developed into emotions, hence into values.

“Only if we understand, will we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help shall all be saved.” – Dr. Goodall.

There is a book I carry with me at all times. It even follows me from room to room in my house. The title is: “Hope for Animals and Their World” by Jane Goodall with Thane Maynard and Gail Hudson. It is an engaging, adventurous, real account of how humanity can make and have a positive impact on the environment when we choose to devote ourselves to preserving, respecting and loving every living being, first and foremost each other. There is no better teacher than Nature to help us understand that diversity is beauty, that it is, what allows us to survive. Our differences make for the unique characteristics, the qualities that contribute, in so many differents ways and forms, to making the world a better place for all.

With this in mind I have come to believe that the best way of capturing interest is through the heart. True stories and personal experiences have the power to do just that. When a heart is touched the spark of empathy egnites the fire of passion, and that, in many cases leads to constructive and peaceful action. Just like “The Romance Of George And Tex” on page 119 of Dr. Jane’s book narrates.

It reads:

“George Archibald has devoted his whole life to cranes of all species. He has played a role in the conservation of the whooping crane – and not only in conventional ways. The story of his courtship with a whooping crane named Tex is enchanting.

Tex, who hatched at the San Antonio Zoo in 1966, was hand raised and imprinted on humans. She was a rare and valuable bird carrying unique genes, and it was important that she reproduce – but a decade of introductions to suitable male cranes failed. Tex preferred male Caucasians. George knew that hand-raised cranes will sometimes lay eggs if they form a close bond with a human – so he volunteered to court Tex.

In the summer of 1976 Tex arrived at the International Crane Foundation, where a shelter had been built for the unconventional couple. Tex’s side was equipped with two buckets – one for fresh water and one for nutritious pellets. George’s side had a cot, a desk, and a typewriter.

Most of the day Tex stood nearby and watched George, but sometimes she led him ooutside.

Cranes have a remarkable courtship dance that includes bowing, jumping, running and tossing objects into the air. To strngthen their bond, George agreed to join Tex in this elaborate performance many times daily during the early months of their relationship.

And it worked. The following spring, Tex laid her first egg. Unfortunately, although it was artificially inseminated, this egg was infertile. So their courtship dancing continued. the next spring she again laid one egg, but to George’s intense disappointment the chick died while hatching. And for the next three years George was working in Chin, so others danced with Tex. But she never laid for them. <<In spring 1982, I made an all-out effort with tex,>> George told me. For six weeks he spent every hour with her, from dawn until dusk, seven days a week. Once more, she laid one egg. And this time the chick hatched. he was named Gee Whiz.

Three weeks later, as George was about to appear on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, he heard that Tex had been killed by raccoons. he went onto the show anyway, and after sharing his courtship story with twenty-two million people, he broke the sad news.

<<The studio audience gasped, and that ripple of anguish was felt nationally,>> he said. <<Through her dance and death, I think, Tex made a great contribution to public awareness about the plight of endangered species.>>

Gee Whiz prospered and eventually paired with a female whooper. Many of his offspring have been introduced back into the wild, and the genes from Tex are alive and well in both captive and wild populations of whooping cranes.”

I found that episode of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and I invite all to watch it, maybe now or why not, save it for a cold winter evening. Gather the kids and family, and enjoy the warmth of the smiles it will spawn, as it bridges the bond that ties human beings, that ties each and every one of us to Nature, as a whole, without boundries nor divisions.

Today I no longer search for potato bugs and I have a decent
relationship with the ants that invade our kitchen every summer – in the
sense that I could never dream of harming them, but I do manage them out of our cupboards
and food by keeping open bottles of apple cider vinegar pretty much everywhere. Since they don’t particularly like the smell, they stay away, perfectly content with the few little crumbs they manage to scavenge from the floor.

Inspired by Dr. Jane, I write children’s books, and spend my days trying to spot dolphins and sea turtles in the Adriatic Sea, in Italy where I am based for now. 

Thank you Dr. Jane Goodall, from the bottom of my heart, for showing us all the good that comes to the world when we all do our part and share the effort as friends.

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