Perhaps no one knows more about orangutans than the renowned “professor of primates” who has spent more than 30 years in the wilds studying them. Birute Mary F. Galdikas is a post-World War II baby boomer who has done quite well in the field of anthropology on a national and international basis. No doubt she will continue in her work and make additional substantial contributions. We can be grateful for her efforts to preserve and retain the presence of animals such as orangutans that might have been lost as a result of a lack of concern and insensitivity to the value of their presence among us.
Birute had an early interest in animals, beginning with her childhood days in Canada. It was an interest in a field of inquiry that would sustain her for the rest of her life. She followed up this childhood interest in animals when she arrived in the United States. In 1966, she received her bachelor’s degree from UCLA, and later received her master’s degree in anthropology from the same institution. It was at UCLA that she met a person who inspired her. He was Dr. Louis Leakey, who was to become her mentor and supporter.
In 1971, Birute arrived in Indonesia to study orangutans. It wasn’t long before her arduous efforts resulted in substantial new knowledge about apes. Her professional efforts in the field of anthropology have also brought other benefits. Thanks to Birute, there is a renewed interest in primates as well as a movement to help retain their presence in the world. Yet it is not only the primates that are the of her professionalism. Her work has also caused us to be more concerned with the ecological environment that sustains animals and its effect on us as living human beings. Birute herself has been rewarded in that she was able to establish an impressive publication record concerning her specialized interests. In addition, she has received numerous awards and widespread recognition for her professional activities. Her efforts have also resulted in the establishment of the Orangutan Foundation International in order to bring about a better understanding of primates and the need to retain their existence. She continues to share her vast knowledge and valuable experiences concerning her specialized interests with a new generation of interested students by lecturing at various universities.
- Galdikas, B. M. F. (1995). My years with the orangutans of Borneo. Boston: Little, Brown.
- Galdikas, B. M. F. (Ed.). (2001). All apes great and small. New York: Kluwer Academic.
- Galdikas, B. M. F. (2005). Great ape odyssey. New York: Abrams.