Jane Goodall: “China is exploiting Africa’s resources just like European colonisers did”

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Acclaimed primatologist Jane Goodall tells AFP that search for natural resources could have disastrous effect on environment.

Jane Goodall (Picture: Nick Stepowyj / Flickr)

On the eve of her 80th birthday, the acclaimed primatologist Jane Goodall is whizzing across the world giving a series of lectures on the threats to our planet.

And the rising world power’s involvement on the continent especially raises alarms when it comes to her beloved chimpanzees and wildlife habitats.

During the last decade China has been investing heavily in African natural resources, developing mines, oil wells and running related construction companies. Activists accuse Chinese firms of paying little attention to the environmental impact of their race for resources.

“In Africa, China is merely doing what the colonialist did. They want raw materials for their economic growth, just as the colonialists were going into Africa and taking the natural resources, leaving people poorer,” she told AFP in an interview in Johannesburg.

The stakes for the environment may even be larger this time round, she warns.

“China is bigger, and the technology has improved… It is a disaster.”

Other than massive investment in Africa’s mines, China is also a big market for elephant tusks and rhino horn, which has driven poaching of these animals to alarming heights.

But Goodall, who rose to fame through her ground-breaking research on chimpanzees in Tanzania, is optimistic.

“I do believe China is changing,” she said, citing as one example Beijing’s recent destruction of illegal ivory stockpiles.

“I think 10 years ago, even with international pressure, we would never have had an ivory crush. But they have,” she added.

“I think 10 years ago the government would never have banned shark fin soup on official occasions. But they have.” Her organisation Roots and Shoots, founded over two decades ago to instil conservation values in children, has also become involved in China.

“We work with hundreds of Chinese children, and they are not different from children we work with here. They all love nature, they love animals, they want to help.

“If you have one thousand, one million or eventually several million people all making the right choice, all thinking about the consequence of their behaviour, then we’re going to see big change.”

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