Dr Biruté Galdikas – 50 years Saving Orangutans
About Dr Birute Galdakis
Jane Goodall began her studies of chimpanzees in Tanzaniain 1960, Dian Fossey travelled to Rwanda in 1967 to study mountain gorillas, and in 1971 Biruté Galdikas began studying orangutans in Borneo.
Dr Galdikas has conducted the longest continuous study, by one principal investigator, of any wild mammal in the world. She 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. OFI now has sister organizations in Australia, Canada, Indonesia, and France.
Dr. Galdikas has lectured extensively on the orangutans and their tropical rainforest habitat to audiences and institutions throughout the world. She is dedicated to understanding the nature of the orangutan and also to preserving the creature’s rapidly diminishing natural habitat, which incorporates local peoples, cultures, and the environment.
The situation facing wild orangutans today 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 20 years outside of national parks and reserves. Understanding is the first step to action. As President of OFI, Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas has studied orangutans longer than another person in human history; she has worked ceaselessly to save orangutans and forests, and to bring orangutans and their plight to the attention of the world.