Jane Goodall Supports Longneck Manor

I was at my desk at Disney Imagineering getting ready to return home after a long day at work when my cell phone rang.  

“Hello, is this Rick?” 

“Yes”, I replied, immediately recognizing the voice on the other end.

“ This is Jane Goodall. I was hoping you might be free for dinner tonight. I’d like to learn a bit about your project, but also about you.”

That was back in 1994.  Jane’s call  turned out to be the beginning of a very special relationship and friendship.  We had a lovely dinner that evening,  joined by Jane’s trusted assistant Mary Lewis.  The next day I invited Jane and Mary to Disney’s  ‘top secret’ Bowling Alley in Burbank.  They were given a short presentation by Joe Rohde, the head of the Disney Animal Kingdom project, followed by a tour of the studio and all the renderings and models of a fourth theme park that was being planned for Disney World in Orlando.

Jane eagerly signed on as an unofficial advisor for the mission of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, just when the public was about to learn of Disney’s plan to exhibit living, zoo born animals in naturalistic habitats.  While general public opinion enthusiastically embraced the notion of a ‘Disney Zoo’ some vocal critics were against keeping animals in captivity under any circumstances.  We needed third party, independent, advocates to present the facts and allay unnecessary concerns that might arise concerning  the exhibit of large animals for public enjoyment and education – a role Jane filled

Over the years, Jane has stayed at our home several times and loves to play with our dogs.  At 87 years old, she is a relentless warrior, dedicated to  the welfare and future of all animals, as well as to the support of the people who care for them.  Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Jane traveled an average of 300 days a year, having maintained that pace for more than  30 years after completing her field work in Tanazania’s Gombe Stream National Park.  During that time, we’ve had the opportunity to travel together on several occasions and share animal adventures.

In my opinion, there is no greater conservation hero on the planet than Dr. Jane Goodall.  No one that I know has more courage, passion and hope for making our world a better place for all its inhabitants.  I am thrilled to have Jane endorse Longneck Manor’s animal welfare and conservation mission and hope that future travels will bring her here for a visit. Permit me to close my eyes for a moment and imagine her sharing her signature chimpanzee ‘welcome hoot’ with a room full of inspired guests.

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