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Jane Goodall 'Fascinated' By Bigfoot (VIDEO)

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The most famous primatologist in the world is ape about Bigfoot.

Jane Goodall made her name studying chimpanzees in Africa and by discovering that they, like humans, use tools.

Since then, she has been working to preserve their decreasing numbers via the Jane Goodall Insititute. She also admitted to an interest in the mysterious creature known as Bigfoot, Sasquatch or the Yeti.

"I'm not going to flat-out deny its existence," Goodall said during an exclusive interview with The Huffington Post before a benefit dinner in La Jolla, Calif. "I'm fascinated and would actually love them to exist.

"Of course, it's strange that there has never been a single authentic hide or hair of the Bigfoot, but I've read all the accounts."

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Goodall is perhaps the most famous natural scientist to at least entertain the notion that the creatures exist. In 2002, she said during an interview with NPR that she was sure of it.

"I've talked to so many native Americans who all describe the same sounds, two who have seen them. I've probably got about, oh, 30 books that have come from different parts of the world, from China from, from all over the place, and there was a little tiny snippet in the newspaper just last week which says that British scientists have found what they believed to be a yeti hair and that the scientists in the Natural History Museum in London couldn't identify it as any known animal," she told interviewer Ira Flatow.

Goodall conceded there hasn't been the smoking gun that proves the existence of Sasquatch, and told Flatow, "of course, the big, the big criticism of all this is, 'Where is the body?' You know, why isn't there a body? I can't answer that, and maybe they don't exist, but I want them to."

While Goodall is interested in what other researchers are doing in regards to Bigfoot, protecting chimpanzees and other great apes keeps her too busy to comb the woods of North America searching herself.

"Chimpanzees are very endangered," she told HuffPost. "They only live in Africa and when I began in 1960, there were probably close to 2 million living in Africa. Today, it's less than 300,000 spread over 21 nations with the only significant numbers in the Congo."

Most people grasp the concept of ape extinction on an abstract basis, but Goodall said she believes that when they see live primates such as Crystal the capuchin monkey on the new NBC sitcom "Animal Practice," they inadvertantly assume the animals aren't endangered.

"I think people have been getting the wrong message through Hollywood and other such outfits for a very long time," she said. "People don't realize, first, the cruelty, to train the chimp for entertainment. You must take it away from its mother when it's very young, so the little thing never has the chance to learn how to be a chimp because they learn, just as we do.

"By the time they're 7 or 8 and too strong to be used as entertainment or pets, or whatever people have taken them for, by then, they don't know how to be a chimp so their future is pretty bleak."

Goodall can be seen Oct. 9 when Animal Planet airs "Jane's Journey," a 2010 documentary about her life and work.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of the story incorrectly referred to The Jane Goodall Insitute as The Jane Goodall Foundation.

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