Dr Birute Galdikas: born to be wild

People who live in the western countries rarely think about rainforests, orangutans, or the fact that they are going extinct, it just feels too far away. Well, unless they are sitting in comfortable IMAX cinema chairs munching popcorn and watching a documentary.

Renowned scientist and primatologist, Dr Birute Galdikas was featured in the film Born to be Wild, where she spoke about her passion for orangutans and Borneo rainforest and her efforts to keep them safe.

Dr Birute Galdikas. Image by Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk
Dr Birute Galdikas. Image by Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk

Renowned scientist and primatologist, Dr Birute Galdikas was born in Germany in 1946, when her parents were en route to Canada from Lithuania. Having spent her childhood in Canada, she later went on to study at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), where she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and zoology, followed by a master’s degree and a doctorate in anthropology.

Birute approached anthropologist Dr Louis Leakey to discuss her desire to study orangutans, and eventually, three years later, he found the funding to facilitate her research in Borneo, Indonesia, as he had previously helped both, Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey in their studies on chimpanzees and mountain gorillas. Birute’s goal was to learn more about the origin of human behaviour by studying orangutans. However, the task turned out to be much bigger. She says, “Even though I’m a scientist, the animals I’m studying are going extinct so I’ve had to get involved in political activism.” Continue reading

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