Welcome to Orangutan Awareness Week 2017! We have dedicated this day to orangutan expert and OFIC’s President,
Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas.
Dr. Biruté, a Canadian Citizen, immigrated with her family to Canada as a child. She grew up in Toronto and moved across the country in her teens to Vancouver BC. She moved to Los Angeles while in University and gained her Masters degree in Anthropology at UCLA. After attending a talk by the famous Anthropologist Dr. Lewis Leakey about the work of Dian Fossey with mountain gorillas, Biruté knew she was going to work with Dr. Leakey to study orangutans. After much patience she eventually made it to Indonesia with Dr. Leakey’s support and began her life long mission to study and conserve orangutans and their forest home.
Biruté (then still a PhD student) arrived at what is now Camp Leakey on November 5th, 1971. Along with her then husband, Rod Brindamour, they established the Camp Leakey research area, which is still used today. Biruté began following orangutans and observing their behavior and was the first to document much we know today of orangutans such as the sex differences in behaviors such as travel, mating, and sociality. The research at Camp Leakey constitutes the longest running behavioral study of any mammal yet conducted. Camp Leakey has been occupied and data has been collected monthly since her first arrival and continues to be collected today!
Dr. Galdikas co-founded the Orangutan Foundation International in 1986, to support this research, as well as the work she began almost immediately upon her arrival rehabilitating and reintroducing orangutans back into the wild. Even in 1971 orangutans were threatened and many were orphaned and kept as pets. Working closely with Indonesian government officials she began the seemingly never-ending work of saving and returning these orphans back into the wild. OFI and now several sister organizations like OFI Canada continue to support the work of Dr. Galdikas and the incredible field operations at Camp Leakey, the OCCQ, and surrounding areas. These operations care for hundreds of orangutans and give important alternative livelihoods to hundreds of local people.
Dr. Galdikas works tirelessly to manage these field operations, field research, conducts outreach and raises funds, while is also a full professor at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby BC. She is also the President and fearless leader of all of us here at OFI Canada. We are continually in awe of the dedication and determination of her spirit to save each and every orangutan possible.
Tune in later this week to learn more about the Orangutan Care Center and Quarantine (OCCQ) and how your dollars help support Dr. Galdikas’ work to rehabilitate and reintroduce orangutans back into their forest homes.