Galdikas, Biruté (1948–)

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Galdikas, Biruté (1948–)

German-born Canadian primatologist and conservationist. Name variations: Birute Galdikas; Biruté M.G. Galdikas. Pronunciation: bi-ROO-tay GAHL-di-kuhs. Born Biruté Marija Filomena Galdikas on May 10, 1948, in Wiesbaden, West Germany, of Lithuanian heritage; grew up in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; eldest of four children of Anatanas Galdikas (miner) and Filomena Galdikas; attended Elliot Lake High School, in northern Ontario; attended University of British Columbia; BA (summa cum laude), 1966, MA, and PhD from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA); m. Rod Brindamour, 1970 (div. 1979); m. Pak Bohap (Dayak tribesman and farmer), 1981; children: (1st m.) son, Binti Paul Brindamour (b. 1976); (2nd m.) Frederick Bohap; Filomena Jane Bohap.

With the backing of anthropologist Louis Leakey, started the Orangutan Research and Conservation Project in Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo (1971), amassing an extraordinary amount of information about the species; was the 1st scientist to discover that orangutans are not strict vegetarians, and the 1st to document the 8-year birthing cycle of the female; became an Indonesian citizen; serves as a professor extraordinaire at the Universitas Nasional in Jakarta; under a special decree, served as a senior advisor to Indonesia's Ministry of Forestry on orangutan issues (Mar 1996–Mar 1998); won the prestigious Kalpataru award, the highest award given by the Republic of Indonesia for outstanding environmental leadership, the 1st person of non-Indonesian birth and one of the 1st women to be so recognized by the Indonesian government (June 1997); as of 2000, had successfully returned more than 200 orangutans back into the wild.

See also memoir Reflections of Eden: My Years with the Orangutans of Borneo (Little, Brown, 1995); Sy Montgomery, Walking with the Great Apes: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, Biruté Galdikas (Houghton Mifflin, 1992); and Women in World History.