Birute Galdikas

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Birute Galdikas

"Scientist, conservationist, educator: for more than three decades Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas has studied and worked closely with the orangutans of Indonesian Borneo in their natural habitat, and is today the world's foremost authority on the orangutan...

"When her family moved to the United States in 1964, Galdikas began her studies of natural sciences at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), quickly earning her bachelores degree in psychology and zoology in 1966 and her master's degree in anthropology in 1969. It was there as a graduate student that she first met Kenyan anthropologist Dr. Louis Leakey and spoke with him about her desire to study orangutans.

"Although Dr. Leakey seemed disinterested at first, Galdikas worked hard to persuade him of her passion. After three years, Dr. Leakey finally found the funding for Galdikase orangutan studies, as he had previously done with both Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey for their studies on chimpanzees and mountain gorillas, respectively.

"And so in 1971, Galdikas and her then husband, photographer Rod Brindamour, arrived in one of the world's last wild places, Tanjung Puting Reserve in Indonesian Borneo. There were no telephones, roads, electricity, television, or regular mail service there at that time. Before she left the U.S., she was told by her professors and others that it "couldn't be done"; she wouldn't be able to study orangutans in the wild...

"To support her work at Camp Leakey and to help support orangutans around the world, Dr. Galdikas and her former doctoral student, Dr. Gary Shapiro, set up Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) in 1986. Based in Los Angeles, California, OFI has chapters in Australia, Indonesia, and the United Kingdom.

"From March 1996 through the end of March 1998 under a special decree, Galdikas served as a Senior Advisor to Indonesia's Ministry of Forestry on orangutan issues. In June 1997, she won the prestigious "Kalpataru" award, the highest honor given by the Republic of Indonesia for outstanding environmental leadership. She is the only person of non-Indonesian birth and one of the first women to be so recognized by the Indonesian government...

"Dr. Galdikas is Professor Extraordinaire at the Universitas Nasional in Jakarta and Full Professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada. She has supervised the field research of almost 100 biology students. In recognition of her achievements, Dr. Galdikas has received, among others, the following awards: [1]

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch articles


  1. About our president, Orangutan Foundation International, accessed September 3, 2008.
  2. Advisors, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, accessed October 20, 2009.