Jane Goodall

United Nations Messenger of Peace Dr. Jane Goodall will serve as the grand marshal of the 2013 Tournament of Roses festivities, announced at the Tournament House in Pasadena. ((Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / April 25, 2012)

If Tanzania's chimpanzees were to join millions of viewers around the world tuning into the 2013 Rose Parade, they would see their friend Jane Goodall as grand marshal, speaking on their behalf and for the betterment of the planet.

The famed primatologist was named grand marshal of the 124th Rose Parade at a Tournament House ceremony Wednesday.

“What an amazing honor, a surprising honor for me,” she said. “As most of you know, I spent many, many years of my life out with the wild chimpanzees in Africa — kind of different from Pasadena.”

She then offered her impression of a chimpanzee greeting call.

Goodall was 26 when she left England for Tanzania to visit a childhood friend. She remained with a notebook and pair of binoculars to observe the chimpanzees. On Wednesday, she recalled reaching Africa by boat after 21 days at sea and smelling the scent of the African coast, thinking to herself, “This cannot be me. It cannot be happening.”

In 1977, she founded the Jane Goodall Institute to protect the wildlife in Tanzania's Gombe National Park. In 2002, the United Nations deemed her a “Messenger of Peace.”

As the Rose Parade's grand marshal, Goodall said she is intent on spreading her message that people can take small steps to reverse the damage the human race has done to the planet.

“When I think of how the world was when I was a child, and what we've done to harm the planet since then, I feel a kind of desperation,” she said.

An author of nearly 30 books, Goodall said her traveling keeps her busy and she misses being in the forest.

Goodall said she only knows of the Rose Parade from reading about it, and she had never touched a football before Wednesday's event.

But she said the parade symbolizes “the best in human nature” in terms of the imagination and technology involved in making the floats, and the Rose Bowl game reflects “endeavor and courage.”

Sally Bixby, President of the Tournament of Roses Assn., said the 2013 theme, “Oh, the Places You'll Go,” can be interpreted as a celebration of accomplishment, discovery and travel. “But to us, it was a call to action,” she said.

On Wednesday, Goodall carried a stuffed monkey named Mr. H, a birthday gift to Goodall from blind former U.S. Marine Gary Haun, who had thought it was a toy chimp until Goodall made him feel the tail. Chimps don't have tails.

Mr. H has traveled with Goodall to 52 countries and will accompany her in the parade, she said.