Birutė Galdikas bigraphy, stories - Primatologist, conservationist, and ethologist

Birutė Galdikas : biography

10 May 1946 -

Birutė Marija Filomena Galdikas, OC (born 10 May 1946), is a primatologist, conservationist, ethologist, and author of several books relating to the endangered orangutan, particularly the Bornean orangutan. Well known in the field of modern primatology, Galdikas is recognized as a leading authority on orangutans. Prior to her field study of orangutans, scientists knew little about the species.


Galdikas was criticised in the late 1990s regarding her methods of rehabilitation. Primatologists debated the issue on the Internet mailing list Primate-Talk; the issue was further fueled by the publication of articles in Outside magazine (May 1998) and Newsweek (June 1998). As reported in both articles and summarized in the 1999 book The Follow by Canadian novelist Linda Spalding, the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry - with whom Galdikas had clashed over logging policies - claimed that Galdikas held "a very large number of illegal orangutans ... in very poor conditions" at her Indonesian home, prompting the government to consider formal charges. Galdikas denied all such claims in a response to Newsweek in June 1999, remarking that allegations of mistreatment were "simply, wrong" and that the "outlandish" claims formed the basis of "a totally one-sided campaign against me." As it turns out, she was right: the allegations made against her were formulated and perpetrated by the palm oil and logging companies in an attempt to hinder her efforts to stop their encroachment on protected forests. No charges were ever filed as the allegations made against her were found by authorities to be entirely false.

Research and advocacy

At 25, Galdikas arrived in Borneo to begin her field studies of orangutans in a jungle environment extremely inhospitable to most Westerners. Galdikas proceeded to make many invaluable contributions to the scientific understanding of Indonesia's biodiversity and the rainforest as a whole, while also bringing the orangutan to the attention of the rest of the world.

When she arrived in Borneo, Galdikas settled into a primitive bark and thatch hut, at a site she dubbed Camp Leakey, near the edge of the Java Sea. Once there, she encountered numerous poachers, legions of leeches, and swarms of carnivorous insects. Yet she persevered through many travails, remaining there for over 30 years while becoming an outspoken advocate for orangutans and the preservation of their rainforest habitat, which is rapidly being devastated by loggers, palm oil plantations, gold miners, and unnatural conflagrations.

Galdikas's conservation efforts have extended well beyond advocacy, largely focusing on rehabilitation of the many orphaned orangutans turned over to her for care. Many of these orphans were once illegal pets, before becoming too smart and difficult for their owners to handle. Galdikas's rehabilitation efforts through Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) also include the preservation of rainforest. Although one Canadian author in the late 1990s was critical of the rehabilitation methods, the ongoing birth of new orangutans among the formerly-rehabilitated adult orangutans at Camp Leakey is part of what makes it the longest continual study of a single species. The value of Dr. Galdikas's work has been acknowledged in television shows hosted by Steve Irwin as well as Jeff Corwin on Animal Planet. In addition, the importance of Dr. Galdikas's concern and work towards preserving Indonesian rain forest has been reinforced by the biofuel article of January 25, 2007, in The New York Times and the November 2008 article in National Geographic magazine, "Borneo's Moment of Truth." Galdikas's organization, O.F.I., is also involved in a reforestation project, planting native trees in previously destroyed areas of rain forest.

Early life and education

Living octopus

Living octopus

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