Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Termites on a Stick

A lot of interesting things happened on this day in history. In 1789, during the French Revolution, Parisian citizens stormed the Bastille and released the prisoners. Gustav Klimt, the Austrian painter, was born in 1862. William H. Bonney Jr., more commonly known as Billy the Kid, was killed in 1881. And on July 14th, 1960, the amazing Jane Goodall, British primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace, set foot in the Gombe Stream National Park of Tanzania. It was the start of extraordinary scientific discoveries in chimpanzee behavior. Today, fifty years later, the Gombe research is one of the longest running studies of animals in the wild. Its results have radically changed the way we understand all living things, inspired a generation of scientists around the world, and changed the world of ethology.

One of the most revolutionary discoveries Jane made during that first trip to Tanzania occurred several weeks into her stay. She observed two chimpanzees taking sticks and stripping them of branches before poking them into termite colonies. After removing the sticks, the chimps snacked on their catches: juicy termites fished out of the ground.

This was no insignificant observation. Up until that point, tool-making was identified as a defining trait of mankind. Jane’s discovery was about to change how we understood not only chimpanzees, but all living creatures - and, most importantly, the place and role of human beings in the ecological structure of the world.

In Termites on a Stick, a young chimpanzee observes his mother enjoying her favorite snack, termites. The young chimp wants to have some for himself, but his mother wants him to learn how to fish for termites on his own. After trial and error, the young chimpanzee finally earns his delectable treat!

Children are going to fall in love with this book. Michele Coxon’s illustrations bring the liveliness and endearing nature of chimpanzees to life. Like Goodall, young children will be awed by the parallels they find between their own lives and the everyday life of chimpanzees.

Goodall’s discoveries changed the world. She cites her first inspiration as a stuffed toy chimpanzee she received as a child. Who knew that it would eventually lead to such exciting accomplishments? Your child could very well be the next little Jane. Open his or her eyes to the wonderful world of wildlife with Termites on a Stick!


For more information on Jane Goodall, and to find out how to get involved in the work of the Jane Goodall Institute, visit

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