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Birutė Marija Filomena Galdikas, OC Ph.D. (born ), is a primatologist, conservationist, ethologist, and author of several books relating to the endangered species orangutan. Well known in the field of modern primatology, Galdikas is recognized as a leading authority on orangutans.

Early life and education

Galdikas was born in Wiesbadenmarker, Germanymarker to Lithuanianmarker parents. She later became a naturalized Canadianmarker and grew up in Torontomarker, Canadamarker.

In college she studied psychology and biology. In 1966, Galdikas earned her bachelor's degrees in psychology and zoology from the University of British Columbiamarker and the University of California, Los Angelesmarker , her master's degree in anthropology from UCLA in 1969 and her doctorate in anthropology, also from UCLA, in 1978. It was there, as a graduate student, she first met famed Kenyanmarker paleontologist Louis Leakey and expressed her desire to study orangutans in their natural habitats.

Leakey's Angels

Orangutans comprise an exceedingly intelligent great ape genus native to Malaysiamarker and Indonesiamarker, who have long arms and reddish, sometimes brown, hair. Determined to study and understand the world of the elusive "red ape", Galdikas convinced Leakey to help orchestrate her endeavor, despite his initial reservations.

In 1971, Galdikas and her then husband, photographer Rod Brindamour, arrived in one of the world's few remaining wild places, Tanjung Puting Reserve, in Indonesian Borneomarker. Galdikas thus become the third of a trio of women hand-picked by Leakey to study mankind's nearest relatives, the other great apes, in their natural habitat. Known as "Leakey's Angels", the other two were Jane Goodall, who studied chimpanzees, and Dian Fossey, who became a martyr in her quest to study and protect mountain gorillas.

Leakey and the National Geographic Societymarker helped Galdikas initially set up her research camp to conduct field study on orangutans in Borneo. Before Leakey's fortuitous decision to anoint Galdikas as the third of his "Angels", the orangutan was much less understood than the African great apes. Galdikas went on to further burnish Leakey's legacy by greatly expanding scientific knowledge of orangutan behavior, habitat and diet.

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 Seamarker. 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 logger, 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 Geographicmarker magazine, "Borneo's Moment of Truth."

An ongoing legacy

While campaigning actively on behalf of primate conservation, Galdikas continues her field research, among the lengthiest continuous studies of a mammal ever conducted. Her husband, Pak Bohap, is a Dayak rice farmer, tribal president, and co-director of the orangutan program in Borneo. She has also written several books, including a memoir, written long after her fellow "Angels" published theirs, entitled Reflections of Eden. In it, Galdikas describes her experiences at Camp Leakey and efforts to rehabilitate ex-captive orangutans and release them into the Borneo rainforest.

Dr. Galdikas is currently a professor at Simon Fraser Universitymarker in Burnaby, British Columbiamarker, and Professor Extraordinaire at Universitas Nasional in Jakartamarker, Indonesia. She is also president of the Orangutan Foundation International in Los Angeles, Californiamarker.

Recognition

Galdikas has been featured in Life, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, numerous television documentaries, and twice on the cover of National Geographicmarker.

Galdikas, along with fellow "Angel" Jane Goodall, and preeminent field biologist George Schaller, became recipients of Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement laureates in 1997 for their groundbreaking field research and lifetime contributions to the advancement of environmental science.

Other honors bestowed upon Galdikas include the PETA Humanitarian Award (1990), the Eddie Bauer Hero of the Earth (1991), the Sierra Club Chico Mendes Award (1992), and the United Nations Global 500 Award in 1993.

In 1995, she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

References



Further reading

  • Spalding, Linda. (1999). A Dark Place in the Jungle: Following Leakey's Last Angel into Borneo. Algonquin Books: New York. ISBN 1565122267


See also



External links




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