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Google’s new Gombe Street View lets users ‘walk’ along chimp trails and into Jane Goodall’s house

New maps allow public exploration of the area Goodall has used for research for nearly fifty years

Google Maps is now available for Tanzanian forest paths. Users can walk virtually along the same trails Jane Goodall has used for decades of chimpanzee study — and even into her house.

Gombe Street View, a joint effort between Google Maps, Google Earth Outreach (GEO), Tanzania National Parks, and the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), used the same method to capture Gombe Stream National Park as Google did when mapping streets around the world. Except instead of using vehicles to carry the 15-lens cameras used for recording the 360-degree images, Google’s two “trekkers” had to carry the cameras around in 40-pound backpacks.

Gombe Street View image of a mother and juvenile eastern chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) walking along a trail in Gombe Stream National Park. Image courtesy of Google Earth.

The result is an immersive, interactive world that takes you from the shores of Lake Tanganyika — the longest freshwater lake in the world — to densely forested valleys to the stark tops of hills, with chimps featured prominently in many of the shots.

“When it’s two dimensional, when it doesn’t include imagery, it’s not a very faithful representation of reality,” Rebecca Moore, founder of GEO, told Smithsonian Magazine. “We want to create this highly realistic replica of the planet and put it in everyone’s hand.”

Users can even look around in Jane Goodall’s house, where skulls and books abound.

Jane Goodall is an English primatologist famed for her pioneering work with eastern chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii)in Gombe over the past half-century. Through her research, Goodall upended the entrenched belief that only humans were capable of making and using tools after observing chimps modifying sticks to extract termites. She also disproved the notion that chimps are vegetarians, documenting their hunting of smaller primates.

Goodall is also a global leader in chimpanzee conservation, founding the Jane Goodall Institute in 1977 in part to support protection efforts. The eastern chimpanzee is a subspecies of the common chimpanzee, which is currently listed by the IUCN as Endangered. In all, between 172,700 and 299,700 chimps were estimated to exist as of a 2003 survey, and their numbers are dropping ever-further in response to habitat destruction, poaching, and disease.

Studies have shown extensive deforestation of chimp habitat. According to Global Forest Watch, the region encompassing eastern chimpanzee habitat lost more than 3.5 million hectares of tree cover–nearly 3 percent of its forests–from 2001 through 2012.

Google and JGI previously partnered to use mapping technology to track chimp population declines. They hope the new Gombe Street View will help spur public awareness of the species and conservation action.

The region shown lost approximately 3 percent of its forest cover from 2001 through 2012, with intact forest largely relegated to northern DRC. The area around Gombe Stream National Park (yellow dot) is void of large tracts of undisturbed forest. Map courtesy of Global Forest Watch. Click to enlarge.

DISCLAIMER: Jane Goodall is a member of’s advisory board. However, neither she nor the Jane Goodall Institute influenced the publication of this article.


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