REFLECTIONS OF EDEN by Biruté M.F. Galdikas


My Years with the Orangutans of Borneo
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 A long, detailed look at the elusive orangutan of Borneo's rainforest, by the third of Louis Leakey's protÇgÇes (the others being Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey). Galdikas (Anthropology/Simon Fraser Univ., Canada) went to Indonesia in 1971 to study the orangutan--the sole great ape of Asia and the last arboreal great ape. At that time Kalimantan, the Indonesian piece of the island known as Borneo, was even more a land of endless rainforest, abundant wildlife, and isolated villages than it is today. The terrain was mean, the subject unwilling, the hours punishing. And Galdikas loved it. Her self- appointed task was to rescue captured orangutans--destined for zoos, circuses, petdom, or the laboratory cutting board--and return them to the wild. Her base of operations was the Tanjung Puting National Park, although Galdikas had to spend much of her time chasing poachers and loggers. Her story starts pretty much with day one and runs up to the present: setting up her camp, life with her then-husband, meeting and getting to know the apes, the fruits of her years of intense behavioral study. If nothing else, you have got to admire the sheer tonnage of raw data she amassed. She splices odd snippets of history, Darwinian theory, and behavioral science into her narrative, including smart little blasts of descriptive writing. Then there are the extraordinary recollections of her years as cross-species mother, nurturing, protecting, loving her young charges, tender moments remembered with great warmth: ``I gloried in being a mother.'' As much as Galdikas became attached to the apes, she was set on giving them their freedom and encouraging their independence, thereby forming the deepest and most lasting of bonds. An important contribution to orangutan research, certainly in a league with Goodall's chimps and Fossey's gorillas. (b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 18th, 1995
ISBN: 0-316-30181-7
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1994