The first book Biruté Galdikas checked out of the public library, at age six, was Curious George, the tale of an inquisitive little monkey. Now 64 and a professor of archaeology at Simon Fraser University, Dr. Galdikas has spent the past 40 years studying the endangered orangutans of Borneo, placing her in the pantheon of famous primatologists alongside Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey and earning her a starring role in a new film documenting her conservation efforts.
Born to be Wild
opened at IMAX theatres April 8 and chronicles Dr. Galdikas’s work researching and rescuing orphaned orangutans at the Camp Leakey research and conservation centre in Tanjung Puting National Park, Indonesia. She began her research there in 1971 after receiving funds from world-renowned anthropologist Louis Leakey, who had also supported Drs. Goodall and Fossey for their respective studies on chimpanzees and mountain gorillas.
The film’s producer, Drew Fellman, visited Camp Leakey 18 years ago and was moved by the fate of the primates. “I didn’t meet him then, but I heard that he vowed to one day do something to help this cause,” says Dr. Galdikas. Two years ago he approached her with the idea of making the film. Born to be Wild also features the rescue and rehabilitation of elephants in Kenya.
Dr. Galdikas (shown above with an orphaned orangutan) continues to spend six months of the year in the field. She is credited with bringing international attention to the plight of orangutans and has twice been featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine. To support her work, she and her colleagues established Orangutan Foundation International in 1986 and recently open a Canadian chapter.