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Jane Goodall Sees 'Hope For Animals'

Sometimes, it seems like there's no hope for the planet. Thousands of species go extinct every year, and climate change is closing in. But famed biologist Jane Goodall says she refuses to give up.

In her latest book, Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink, she writes, "There are surely plants and animals living in the remote places beyond our current knowledge. There are discoveries yet to be made."

And, she says, there are species that have been pulled back from extinction by dedicated environmentalists.

The book is a collection of stories about those species and a celebration of the spirited efforts that saved them. Goodall tells Weekend All Things Considered Host Guy Raz that "if we think about only the downside of it, then we lose all hope, and then we are so discouraged that we don't do anything."

Goodall says one of the most important factors in saving a species is the emotional bond that develops between scientists and their subjects — like her attachment to the chimpanzees she studied in Tanzania.

"People I've talked with perhaps come from a discipline where it's not considered scientific to have any kind of empathy with the animal you study," Goodall says. "You're supposed to be cold and scientific. But ... we do have a personal connection with these creatures, and we do this work because we love it, and because we just couldn't bear to let them vanish."

That emotional bond is especially important if the endangered animal isn't immediately appealing. She writes that it's easy to get people excited about saving cute pandas and snow leopards, but what about bugs?

The endangered American burying beetle is one such species. It's unappealing on the surface; the beetles can smell carrion from miles away. Male and female burying beetles will work together to bury a carcass, and then they mate and lay eggs in it. But their parental duties don't end there; Goodall says beetle mom and dad stay with the eggs until they hatch in order to feed the babies.

The researcher working on the burying beetle tells a story about a woman who came along one day and said, "Your beetles look after their young much better than my children looked after my grandchildren," Goodall says. "And she gave him $75,000! Isn't that a lovely story? Beetles!"

Goodall says there's a particularly important reason to save the creepy-crawlies: Something as small and seemingly insignificant as a beetle can be the linchpin of an entire ecosystem.

"There are stories where one little insect or plant or something becomes extinct, and it doesn't seem to matter. But then it turns out that was a major food source for another creature," she says. "So, gradually, there's a chain reaction, and you can have an entire ecosystem collapse just because one piece was taken out, and we didn't realize what that would do."

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