Hello Dr. Birute,
My name is Daryl, I have always been facinated with primates and I have recently began studying them a lot more in depth. I am facinated with your work and you have inspired me to follow my dreams. I want to help save Orangutans. and i want to make a difference like you have. I would love to talk with you about your work, I know you are very busy but if you can will you please message me back. It would be greatly appreciated. I have many questions for you and I want to know how I can get involved and help save Orangutans.Thank you.
My name is Lauren and I am 9 years old and I am planning to do a biography report on you! When I grow up I want to move to Borneo and save the orangutans. I have 16 stuffed animal orangutans. I am passionate about the preservation of orangutans. I have studied and reported on orangutans at school and I tell everyone I know not to buy products that contain palm oil responsible for the destruciton of orangutan habitats. I have a few questions for you. What is the biggest challange you face? What do you feel is your great achievement? Do you name the orangutans? Where do you usally spend most of your time? If you can ever get back to me that would be amazing! I have never seen such a cool thing like this blog. I will be going to the Chester County Library today (March 1, 2013 ) please responed if you ever see this message!
Love your friend Lauren
My name is Dominika Sabakova.
I’m from Slovakia and I’m studying Ecology and physics.
I would like to deal with the issue of primates, especially Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus). I saw you in documentary Born to be wild.
I would like to ask you whether it is possible for you to give me some information, which relates to this issue.
And I need to tell you THANK YOU for what you’re doing for Orangutans.
With love Dominika🙂
We met in Las Cruces the last time you came to this area to speak. The El Paso Zoo is working on an app to help educate people about palm oil by encouraging people to avoid all palm oil products. We are trying to get the app started this week and need a good dramatic picture like from the movie GREEN showing an orangutan in a lone tree surrounded by habitat loss. If you can help us with a picture it would be greatly appreciated. Also, I want to tell others your story about how letter from the US Congress helped you once clear people from the forests of Borneo when the government stepped in. Can you send me that story in writing so that I can share it with other activists? Thanks.
I have recently returned from Tanjung Putting National Park. I was informed Immy whom I believe is your nephew by marriage, that only one side of the river is National park and the other side is being deforested for Palm oil which is depleting the food source for many species. Unfortunately orangutans can’t swim and are unable to access food from the National Park. I would like to do some fund raising to get ropes or some kind of hemp crossings to allow access into the park, which is a strategy Immy suggested, however I cant get a reply from him through facebook. Could u provide me with some feedback on whether u think this would help.
Scientist, conservationist, educator: for almost four decades Dr. Biruté 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.
Update: Dr. Galdikas has her own blog at Drbirute.com and her own twitter account here.
Galdikas was born after the end of World War II, while her parents were en route to Canada from their homeland of Lithuania. Galdikas grew up and went to school in Toronto. After checking out her first library book, Curious George, at the age of six, Galdikas was inspired by the man in the yellow hat and his unruly monkey. By the second grade, she had decided on her life’s work: she wanted to be an explorer.
Galdikas holding newly confiscated orangutan infant “Douglas Soledo” in 2010
Galdikas holding newly confiscated orangutan infant, Douglas Soledo, in 2010
When her family moved from Canada to the United States in 1964, Galdikas had completed a year of studies at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver. She continued her studies of natural sciences at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), quickly earning her bachelor’s 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 persuaded him of her passion. After three years, Dr. Leakey finally found the funding for Galdikas’ orangutan studies, as he had previously done with both Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey for their respective studies on chimpanzees and mountain gorillas.
In 1971, Galdikas and her then husband, 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 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. They were too elusive and wary, living almost entirely in deep swamps.
Before long, however, her hard work and determination had paid off. She set up “Camp Leakey,” named after her mentor and began documenting the ecology and behavior of the wild orangutans. Four years later, she wrote the cover article for National Geographic Magazine, bringing orangutans widespread international public attention for the first time. The article was illustrated with Brindamour’s photographs.
“Although Dr. Leakey seemed disinterested at first, Galdikas persuaded him of her passion. After three years, Dr. Leakey finally found the funding for Galdikas’ orangutan studies.”
Dr. Galdikas has lectured extensively on the orangutans and their tropical rain forest habitat to thousands of people and numerous institutions in Indonesia and throughout the world. Her dedication not only to understand the nature of the orangutan but also to preserve the creature’s rapidly diminishing natural habitat extends to the people, culture, and environment as well. After 40 years in Tanjung Puting, now a national park, Galdikas has conducted the longest continuous study by one principal investigator of any wild mammal in the world.
Galdikas was the first to document the long orangutan birth interval which averaged 7.7 years at Tanjung Puting. She recorded over 400 types of food consumed by orangutans, providing unprecedented detail about orangutan ecology. She also helped elucidate the nature of orangutan social organization and mating systems.
To support her work at Camp Leakey and to help support orangutans around the world, Dr. Galdikas and her colleagues set up Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) in 1986 with its home base in Los Angeles, California. Dr. Galdikas and her husband, Borneo native Pak Bohap bin Jalan, were also instrumental in establishing sister organizations in Australia, Indonesia, and the United Kingdom. A Lithuanian bank, Ukio Bank, established the Biruté Galdikas Ecology and Support Foundation in Vilnius, Lithuania, to support Galdikas’ work and to increase awareness of conservation in Lithuania.
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.
Featured twice on the cover of National Geographic, and the author of scores of scientific articles and reviews, Galdikas has published four books, including her autobiography, Reflections of Eden. Galdikas has also co-edited scientific volumes and served as Book Reviews editor for a primatological journal. Galdikas has been featured in New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and numerous television documentaries such as CBC’s The Third Angel, Connie Chung’s Eye to Eye, and In the Wild with Julia Roberts. The most recent documentaries include Kusasi, From Orphan to King; the Mel Gibson narrated film, The Last Trimate; and the IMAX film, Born to be wild 3D, narrated by Morgan Freeman.
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 Indonesian biology students. In recognition of her achievements, Dr. Galdikas has received, among others, the following awards:
◾Indonesia’s Hero for the Earth Award (Kalpataru)
◾Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement
◾Institute of Human Origins Science Award
◾Officer, Order of Canada
◾PETA Humanitarian Award
◾United Nations Global 500 Award
◾Sierra Club Chico Mendes Award
◾Eddie Bauer Hero for the Earth
◾Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Medal (Canada)
◾Chevron Conservation Award
◾Pride of Lithuania Award
◾Gold Medal for Conservation, Chester Zoological Society (UK)
◾Explorer and Leadership Award, Royal Geographic Society of Spain
◾Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Medal (Canada)
◾Satya Lencana Pembangunan Medal (Indonesia)
Today, the situation facing wild orangutans is far more complicated than when Dr. Galdikas first began her studies. As a result of poaching and habitat destruction, viable orangutan populations are on the edge of extinction and could be gone within the next 10 years. Understanding is the first step to action. As President of OFI, Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas has studied orangutans longer than any other person in human history and has worked ceaselessly to save orangutans and forests, and to bring orangutans and their plight to the attention of the world.
Sorry! I`ve sent you the wrong articel; here ist the right:
Hello Dr. Galdikas
I’m a big fan of you and your work. Thank you that you exist, and you know how to mobilize and inspire future generations!
I write to you from Berlin, and I hope that my “German-English” is understandable.
I try to be quite some time not to buy products with palm oil more. This is very difficult in Germany because the products must show no palm oil declaration. Everything here runs on “vegetable oil” or “emulsifiers” and exactly what they will about the customer left in the dark.
What would you advise me how I can avoid it possible to buy the wrong products?
Moreover, I have to read the following article found on the Internet. He has just shocked me and I am still stunned.
Please listen with your work never, scan and get nothing from anyone and Carry On! The world needs people like you, the orangutans you need so much! Thank you that you exist!
I. Ch. Ahwerst
International Animal Rescue news
06 Dec 2010
Our team witnesses unspeakable cruelty towards orangutans in Borneo
A female orangutan and her infant have suffered unspeakable cruelty at the hands of villagers in a remote part of Borneo after straying there in search of food. The starving mother and baby had been spotted in the village of Peniraman after there was a landslide in the surrounding area which swept them over a cliff edge. At first there was also a male orangutan with them but he was driven away by the angry mob.
The forest surrounding the village has been converted into palm oil plantations and any small patches of remaining woodland are occupied by humans. Deforestation in the area surrounding Peniraman has led to landslides of the small hills around the village, further shrinking the orangutans’ habitat and food supply. If orangutans venture into palm oil plantations they are killed and an orangutan would only enter a human settlement if it was starving and desperate. The female orangutan was subsequently found to be very thin and malnourished, so was clearly desperate for food.
When the villagers came across the orangutans they swung sticks and threw rocks at the terrified animals. The adult female was very weak and probably injured from the fall, so it was easy for the villagers to pursue her and her infant. The male orangutan saw what was happening and tried to protect the mother and baby, but the villagers chased him off. They beat the female with sticks until she submitted on the ground, then tied ropes excruciatingly tightly around her arms and legs. Five men held on to each of her limbs to carry the mother and baby once the ropes were attached, and still she tried to fight back and defend her screeching infant.
The villagers were frustrated that the female still had strength left to try to escape and would not submit to them. They ambushed her again with a large net, took her infant away and tied it up by one foot. The mother panicked and struggled all the more to get back to her baby and so the villagers did something even more unspeakably cruel – they held her down in a pool of water until she was drowning. It must have taken several men to pull her into the pool and hold her head below the water until her body went limp and her lungs filled with water.
Once the mother was unconscious, they dragged her to a makeshift pen. She was still alive but could barely sit up. As she no longer posed any threat to the villagers they dragged the infant by the rope attached to her foot and tossed her into the cage with her dying mother. A large crowd of people gathered around the cage and took amusement in their suffering. The mother used what strength she had left to wrap her arms around her terrified baby while her infant desperately tried to chew through the ropes still tied to her mother’s arms and legs.
Then the crowd grew restless and began yelling and poking at the orangutans with sticks. Thankfully at this point IAR’s vet Anita Herawati arrived on the scene and witnessed the cruelty as the frenzied crowd cheered. Anita acted fast to rescue the tortured orangutans as quickly as possible. Anita first sedated the infant, who was still quite strong and defensive and then sedated her mother. Both were taken to the forestry department for temporary housing before translocation.
The infant awoke from the anaesthesia without a problem but the mother was barely able to move even her fingers. It had been days since mother and baby had eaten a meal. Anita gave food and examined them both and desperately tried to hook up an IV line to the mother. Anita encouraged the baby into her own temporary cage to eat and sleep while she treated the mother. But every vein Anita tried was collapsed and she could hear liquid inside the orangutan’s lungs.
As time went on the mother orangutan began snoring and breathing unsteadily and within fifteen minutes she was dead. Anita had done everything she could to save the poor animal but in the end oedema and haemorrhaging of the lungs caused her death. There was nothing more Anita could have done and she wept in despair when she called everyone back at IAR’s rescue centre to break the horrific news of the orangutan’s death.
The infant was now frantically looking for her mother and was certainly traumatised but she had no immediately life-threatening injuries. Anita brought the baby to the rehabilitation centre in Ketapang because she is too young to be translocated to a forest by herself. She arrived without a problem and is now safe in Ketapang. The team have called the infant Peni and are doing all they can to help her recover from her terrible trauma.
There are still seven remaining orangutans living in unsuitable forests surrounding the village of Peniraman where this tragedy took place, including the male who came down to the village with the mother and Peni. IAR’s team is committed to doing everything they can to rescue and translocate all these orangutans as soon as they can raise sufficient funds to do so.
I read a lot about eco-vacations in order to see orangutans in Borneo up close. These are located in reception and nursing stations. Where the animals come into contact with the tourists, they are allowed to touch the orangutans and come very close to them. “Conventional” eco-tour operators also organize holidays, also to Borneo. Also they can visit orangutans in collection and maintenance stations. A contact is however forbidden to transmit any diseases from humans to animals.
As is the case with your eco-holidays? Orangutans are protected against the transmission of diseases by the people, especially vaccinated? How is it that a contact may take place between humans and animals on your tours? Orangutans are thus not in danger?
(I’m not sure whether I have already sent this. If it appears more than once, excuse me.)
Dear Dr. Galdikas,
I thought you may like to know that the Spanish version of your book ‘Reflections of Eden” is being presented in Barcelona on September 25. A literary translator (Dolors Udina) and I (biologist, science writer and translator) will present it. The book was translated by Montserrat Gurguí and Hernan Sabaté. Unfortuntaley both of them died before seeing the book published. So, with this presentation we want to pay homage to two excellent translators and good friends.
I was aware of your work, but this book has brought me the opportunity to know more about your task in defence of orangutans.
Dr. B Ola from LA, from an Englishman whom last year became Kanatian (i like the old spelling) and who’s going home to Vancouver tomorrow.
I spent 3 yrs in Africa before i came to Kanata setting up micro-initiatives.
I was telling someone today about yr work as am reading AR Wallaces T Malay Archi.
As when and if you come to BC would you be prepared to come speak to our NPO please ?
We house addicts many of whom have HIV and live within the most miserable situations.
Animals and their welfare seem very important to many even though they often treat their fellow man so deplorably…as per the rest of us bipedals can do.
My partner and I are independent documentary film-makers from France. We are currently in Indonesia making an educational movie for French children about the causes and consequences of deforestation in Kalimantan, specifically. We’ve been here one month already, collecting footage in Kutai national park, and meeting local NGO members from COP, following them in some orangutan rehabilitation programs as well as actions of awareness-raising in schools. We’ve also participated in and filmed several actions of reforestation on local levels in Kalimantan Timur.
We realized you would be in Tanjung Puting this week and we would love to meet you, in order to interview you. My father is an ethologist (his PhD teacher was Konrad Lorenz’ student) and I grew up looking up to people like you, who actively make such a difference in wildlife protection. I have spent a couple years working in Bolivia at a wildlife refuge, coordinating the capuchin rehabilitation program at CIWY. One of my closest friends during those years was one of your students at SFU, Nick Charrette. You had asked him to write an article about his experience in the Bolivian NGO where he was in charge of the spider monkey section…
Thus I know that your input regarding the current situation of habitat loss in Indonesia would be extremely valuable to us and we would be very grateful if you could grant us a few minutes of your time to help us educate the new . Please let us know if this is something we could organize. We’ll be here till January 1st.
Thanking you kindly,
Dear Yanette, I read your note to Dr. Galdikas. I am so sorry to answer here, but read your father is an ethologist, specialty I would love to purse but have not find a university that would grand that degree. Would you mind sharing the name of the university your dad study? I would love to apply there. I am a psychiatrist trying to make a career shift towards animal behavior and believe ethology would be the path to follow…would you answer to me please? Wishing you the best. Rosa Amurrio
Hello Dr. Birute Galdikas,
My name is Ellie Brodrick and I am from the United States, and I have recently become interested in orangutans. Your work is inspiring, and I want to become a field researcher and rehabilitator of Sumatran Orangutans one day.
Do you have any tips or facts to share with a newbie?
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