If you know the names Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall, you should also know Biruté Mary Galdikas. Galdikas was the third member of the “Trimates,” women who dedicated their lives to the study of primates, specifically great apes, under the auspices of anthropologist Louis Leakey. They were also sometimes referred to as “Leakey’s Angels.” Galdikas operated far away from Leakey, Fossey, and Goodall because she went to Borneo to study orangutans. That was in 1971, and she’s still there.
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Of the three, Galdikas’ work may have the most lasting impact. Orangutans are critically endangered due to both habitat destruction and poaching. Galdikas not only gained the orangutans’ trust and studied them, but also worked with local people and governments to protect them and their environment. She founded a rescue and rehab center, and has been fighting poachers for decades. This work led to the founding of the Orangutan Foundation International. Read what Galdikas has gone through in her quest to save orangutans at Atlas Obscura.
(Image credit: Simon Fraser University-University Communications)