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Evolution After Darwin: Biruté Galdikas

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Biruté Mary Filomena Galdikas (1946-)

Galdikas is an ethologist, anthropologist, primatologist, conservationist, and Full Professor at Simon Fraser University in Canada, who has devoted her entire life to studying and protecting orangutans in Kalimantan, Borneo. From a young age, she decided she wanted to dedicate her life to the orangutans. She is one of three primatologists, along with Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey, who were supported by National Geographic Society and Louis Leakey to study those species that are humans closest relatives: the great apes. Before Galdikas work in Indonesia, nothing was known about orangutans. Now we know they are very solitary creatures, they build nests in trees, they can live more than 40 years, infants remain with their mothers until the age of 7, mothers give birth every eight years and never have twins.

She founded Camp Leakey, located in central Borneo, where she works full time since 1971. The institution’s mission is to prevent the extinction of the orangutans, fighting continuously against the palm oil industry, an industry that is devastating the apes habitat. She also founded another organization where they raise orphaned babies, give them medical and emotional care, in preparation for their release back into the wild.

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