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A young Birute Galdikas in a canoe with a young Orangutan

Public lecture by Professor Biruté Galdikas in Aug 2024

Camp Leaky Sign   

A First for Newcastle: the visit of one of the world’s greatest biologists fresh from 52 years studying orangutans in the jungle of Borneo.  Keep your eyes open for details of the Public lecture by Professor Biruté Galdikas in August 2024.  Tickets will sell out fast!!!

In the early 1970s Louis Leakey, the Kenyan pioneer of human evolution, raised funds to send three young female scientists out into the field to study the great apes. Birute Galdikas with the orangutans in Borneo, Jane Goodall with chimpanzees in Chombe, and Dian Fossey with the gorillas in the mists of Africa.  These women have been pioneers in the study of the great apes. Sadly only two of Leakey’s “Trimates” continue the conservation fight to preserve these wonderful apes for our grandchildrens’ children.

Galdikas has created the most complete record of wild orangutan behaviour ever recorded, documenting the long orangutan birth interval, the over 400 types of food consumed by orangutans, the orangutan social organization and mating systems, the flanged adult males in combat, consortships, and even wild orangutans giving birth, providing unprecedented detail about orangutan ecology.

Dr Biruté Galdikas continues her work in the jungle protecting the orangutans and their habitat in the Research Centre called “Camp Leakey” she created in 1971, making it the longest study ever conducted in the world by a senior researcher on a species other than humans.  Through her efforts some 450 orphaned orangutans have been returned to the Tanjung Puting National Park.

To have this eminent conservationist spend time at our University of Newcastle mentoring our conservation researchers and research students is both an honour and a privilege.  She stands as an icon for women in science and a role model for women in STEM.

She is the President of the International Orangutan Foundation, a member of the Board of Directors of the International Committee of the Global Biological Corridor. Professor at Simon Fraser University, Lecturer at Universitas National in Jakarta, Indonesia, and PhD in anthropology.

Some quotations from her autobiography “Reflections of Eden”, published in 1995:

“I have always felt that rescuing orangutans is as important as studying them. By working to return the captives to the forest, I was trying to eliminate the captive orangutan trade in the area and thus protect those still free.…

…….Orangutans, along with other great apes, are our closest living relatives. The great apes remind us, more than any other species, of our connection with nature. Because of our closeness to them, scientists often use them in experiments as surrogates for humans. By contrast, we pay no attention to the “nature experiment” that is taking place right now in the rainforests. As we watch the great primates decline towards extinction, we are witnessing our own future on an increasingly inevitable planet. If we act to save our closest relatives and their tropical habitats, we will be taking the first step towards our own salvation”.

Keep your eyes peeled for an evening filled with inspiration, education, and a renewed commitment to safeguarding our precious orangutan neighbours. Tickets will be limited for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness Dr. Birute Galdikas share her extraordinary journey in preserving one of our closest evolutionary relatives.

Contact tim.roberts@newcastle.edu.au for more information.

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