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Reflections of Eden: My Years With the Orangutans of Borneo Hardcover – January, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 197l, 25-year-old Galdikas, a protege of Louis Leakey, went to Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan), accompanied by her then-husband, to study orangutans at the Tanjun Puting Reserve (where she still spends time). It was a difficult assignment in a primitive area, with no roads or telephones and only infrequent mail delivery; travel was by boat or on foot. Furthermore, orangutans are solitary, elusive, arboreal creatures of the tropical forest. This would be the first extended study of their life in the wild. Galdikas presents an absorbing account of tracking the animals, observing mothers and infants, adolescent behavior and combat among males; the decline and death of one family anguished her. Galdikas battled with loggers to preserve habitats; she rescued young orangutans from poachers. This is a captivating story of adventure and conservation, and of a remarkable woman. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Until now, fans of primatologist Galdikas had to make do with brief accounts of her life and work in books such as Evelyn Gallardo's Among the Orangutans (Chronicle, 1993) and Sy Montgomery's Walking with the Great Apes (LJ 2/1/91). Galdikas, along with Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey, was recruited by Louis Leaky to conduct long-term field studies of the great apes, in her case orangutans. While not as famous (or notorious) as her colleagues, Galdikas has been a phenomenal success in both her scientific studies and the conservation of orangutans. She also became immersed in Indonesian culture, marrying and raising children with a native Bornean. This book is a wonderful account of both her scientific work and personal experiences with a harsh environment, the loss of beloved orangutans, and the end of her first marriage to Canadian Rod Brindamour. Her humanity, courage, and dedication shine on every page. Highly recommended for all libraries, this book will inspire young scientists and enthrall anyone interested in orangutans and the rigors of modern field research.
--Beth Clewis, Prince William P.L., Va.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Little Brown & Co (T); 1st edition (January 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316301817
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316301817
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #514,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
I was lucky enough to be one of Galdikas' undergraduate students in her Primate Behaviour course here in Simon Fraser University, Canada. She is very inspirational and I have great admiration for her life-long commitment to the orangutans. This book reflects this commitment and love plus adds lots of interesting facts on orangutan behaviour. I enjoyed her engaging writing style and found this book to be a quick read. Definitely a book that I would recommend to not only inspiring biologists, but to the general public as well.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
The other two "angels" on their mission of Great Ape rescue were of course Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey who studied respectively Chimpanzee's and Mountain Gorillas.(Fossey we know died for her cause). Birute Galdikas started later than the others (1971) and her Great Ape - Orangutans - were also less known and in some respects, less regarded than the others.
Does Galdikas' work in Borneo and her story in REFLECTIONS OF EDEN remedy this oversight? Only somewhat as this book is as much an autobiography as it is a natural history of the "men of the forest". Galdikas' affection for her mentor Louis Leakey is obvious as is her fondness for her fellow primatologists. "Dian, Jane Goodall, and I were family. Louis Leakey had recognized us as kindred souls and become our spiritual father." This connectedness she felt extended to the mystical. When Fossey was murdered in Rwanda in 1985 Galdikas tells us "even before I learned of her death, I knew Dian would be killed, I knew this was her destiny."
It should not be a surprise to read here that a scientist that feels this way will express a high degree of passion about her subjects. All three of these primatologists at different times have talked about "my apes" and this attachment is certainly reciprocated by the Orangutans. Galdikas tells about Sugito an orphaned young male "who selected me as his one and only, his mother". Orangs are the most arboreal and reclusive of the Great Apes and this naturally provides a challenge to studying them. Galdikas has nevertheless learned more about their social behavior than any other researcher. She mixes these insights in with her own life in the jungle at "Camp Leakey" and with life in Indonesia as a whole. In this context Galdikas even recognizes that for a Third World country like Indonesia, conserving and rehabilitating the Orangutans is yet just another priority that they must effectively juggle with. With this book she continues to encourage both them and us to care.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Erik Scheffers on November 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
Unlike the two other primate researchers Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey I had never heard of Galdikas when I found this book a few days ago in the bookshop. Galdikas describes in this book more than 20 years of her life with the Orang Oetans in a nature reserve in Kalimantan, Indonesia. The story is an very enyoable read and tells a lot about the way Orang Oetans live. Instead of viewing all Orang Oetans as similar she describes a lot of different individuals. She's not only studying the Orang Oetans but also tries to free captivated Orang Oetans and tries to relocate them in the reserve. The story is very well written and also very well translated in Dutch. I'm looking forward to read the books by Fossey and Goodall.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 2, 1998
Format: Paperback
Louis Leaky hand-picked three women to conduct studies of primates in their natural habitats. Jane Goodall was sent to study chimps in Gombe, Dianne Fossy: Gorillas in Zaire, and finally Birute Galdikas was sent to Borneo to study orangutans. Having read the work of all three remarkable women, Reflections of Eden stands out as one of the more well-written and engrossing books. Whether or not you are interested in primates, I would recommend this book as a story of one woman's determination and personal development in the face of daunting challenges.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Carmen Hirkala on February 21, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book on sale from Amazon online and enjoyed reading it. B. Galdikas provides powerful insight into the study of orangutans in the forests of Borneo. Although I felt that she over stressed the important metaphors she used to explain experienced conflicts and personal desires, I cherished the real life feel of this autobiography. Birute and her twin soulmates, Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey, have something I think truely important to say about primates, environmental activism and humankind.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Pauline on October 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
If you are inspired by dedicated peoplewith vision and or conservation this is a must read. Professor Galdikas is an amazing woman and is part of the Leakey sisterhood ie Fossey, Goodall and Galdikas, who have made life time studies of apes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dawn Forsythe on December 7, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Galdikas provides an essential insight into the lives of orangutans before the current torrent of rainforest destruction. In this day of "Orangutan Island" and other necessary rescue efforts, it is helpful to learn the patterns of truly wild orangutan life before sanctuaries and rehabilitation. I found myself constantly highlighting and making notes in the margin of this book -- which I usually don't do.

Galdikas also gives a passionate and honest narration of the early days of orangutan advocacy, which she helped spur. Like many Westerners, I find the appearance of apathy on the part of Indonesian government utterly appalling. More than any other book that I've read on the subject, she explains the Indonesian culture driving their governmental policies and (in)actions.

This is a "must read" for anyone seriously interested in saving the orangutans. BUT you must follow it up with A Dark Place in the Jungle: Following Leakey's Last Angel into Borneo, a book by Linda Spalding that provides an insight into Galdikas. Spalding's book is essential to understanding why orangutan advocacy today is splintered between groups who lack transparency and, arguably, effectiveness.
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