Jane Goodall has become a household name in many places, due to her extensive research and outstanding dedication to studying chimpanzees. Because of her, we now have information about this species that had never existed before. Could her methods be used for discovering and studying Bigfoot? If Bigfoot is an ape species, Jane’s research methods may just be the key to observing a Bigfoot group in the wild. Let us take a look at how Jane conducted her research.
It is very clear that the method to studying an elusive species lies within trust and respect. Before she could make contact, Jane would observe the creatures from afar, through telescopes. Eventually, Jane and her team of researchers set up a feeding station with Bananas. The researchers would record which chimps came to the station and the behavior that was observed. This study happened daily, so the data set became overwhelming. Over time, the researchers began observing closer and closer to the feeding station. By the end of the 60’s, the chimps became so used to the researchers hanging around, they were able to follow the chimps to observe their daily movements and general behavior. Nowadays, the data collected is more about their social culture and relationships. By the time the mid-80’s rolled around, Jane had finally finished her book, which included 25 years of research on this group of Chimpanzees.
Her findings included the first sign of tool-use by animals other than humans, warfare, a family life, the rise and fall of alpha males, and the births, lives and deaths of specific chimpanzees. This information was crucial in identifying the intelligence of these animals and their place in evolutionary history. According to the Jane Goodall Institute, they have collected over 30 years of data such as 320 life stories told in maps, audio recordings, photos and field notes. Additionally, they have collected 3,200 fecal samples since 1990. Researchers get DNA from the samples, which tells them more about the species’ culture and social structure. They can track disease, hormone levels, stress levels, etc. Scientists have now been studying microbiomes over the past 15 years to analyze how the species’ health has changed over time. This incredibly abundant data has served as content for 438 published scientific papers about Chimpanzee behavior. Throughout Jane’s research, breakthrough discoveries were made including the chimps making and using tools, hunting, having family lives and personality differences, and exhibiting a form of social culture.
It seems that the key to observing this species was trust. Could this be the case for Bigfoot? Organizations like the North American Wood Ape Conservancy and the Olympic Project are taking a similar approach to studying the Bigfoot species. However, it does seem that feeding stations similar to Jane’s have not yielded the same results. As we know, many researchers report that feeding stations set up next to trail cameras have been found destroyed, maneuvered, or clearly avoided. This may indicate an intelligence level higher than the known ape species. This is where the human theory emerges. If Bigfoot is an ape, why haven’t organizations like the NAWAC come out with photos, videos or DNA from these camps? Perhaps time is the main factor in this equation. Afterall, Jane’s relationship with the Chimps took several years to achieve.
These organizations are certainly taking the right approach to the study of an unknown primate species. However, perhaps Bigfoot is more skeptical of our species. Could it be that they watched the fall of the Native American population, and have adapted to avoid us? Their intelligence just might be an adaptation. Either way, if they do exhibit complex thought the way humans do, can this species be classified as human? If so, how do we observe them? The answer lies in the study of indigenous peoples.
Indonesia is extremely biodiverse. It has the most mammal species of any country and houses an array of predators. Steve Lancing, an anthropologist, has been working in the islands of Indonesia since 1971. Steve stresses that this area has the greatest diversity of human genes and language on the planet, which is why he believes it is the best place to study as an anthropologist. Steve works with Indonesian geneticists to collect data in order to figure out ancestral roots of indigenous people and medicinal advantages of some resources. While working in Borneo, he came into contact with the Punan people, who directed him to a sector of their community called the Cave Punan. That is when Steve began studying this remote hunter-gatherer community. The Punan people are very shy, as Steve has stated, so it was important to study them with only 2-3 researchers. A large group of outsiders would overwhelm this community.
Steve and his 2 colleagues took a boat upriver to the cave where the civilization dwelled. After discovering that the Cave Punan spoke a common language, he began introducing himself and making friends with the members of the group. Wondering why these people were so friendly and welcoming, Steve looked for answers, which soon became apparent. The Cave Punan were very disturbed by the deforestation and production of palm oil plantations. If they could make friends with Steve and his team, they might have a chance to convince them to help. Interestingly, the Punan people use survival techniques that may be comparable to Bigfoot behavior, including making stick formations to mark direction. Another indigenous tribe, called the Tsapanawas of the Amazon Rainforest, whistle and knock to communicate during hunts. It is clear now, that trust is also a huge factor in making contact with indigenous peoples.
Whether Bigfoot is a highly adapted great ape, or a species of indigenous human, one thing is clear: intentions are important. These creatures should not be overwhelmed by large groups of people, intimidating equipment, or quick advancements. The process of making contact with this species will be slow and calculated. It starts with respecting and protecting their habitat. If we can show them that we are here to help, they just might open up. To begin one’s research, it is important to take consistent field notes, pictures and audio recordings, just like Jane did. Documentation of data will not only help us to find their location, but it will be used later down the line in research. Whatever Bigfoot’s origins turn out to be, this discovery is most certainly going to rewrite history. Will you be the one to discover?
“First Contact Lost Tribe of the Amazon (2016) HD.” YouTube, YouTube, 9 Dec. 2017, youtu.be/LynTcYSmAl4.
“Origin Stories Episode 42: The Cave Punan.” The Leakey Foundation, leakeyfoundation.org/originstories/.
“Origin Stories Episode 4: How to Document a Society.” The Leakey Foundation, leakeyfoundation.org/originstories/.