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Reflections of Eden: My Years with the Orangutans of Borneo

4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  514 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
From the first, it was an adventure. In 1971, at age twenty-five, Galdikas left the placid world of American academia for the remote jungles of Indonesian Borneo. Living with her husband in a primitive camp, she became surrogate mother to a "family" of ex-captive orangutans - and gradually adjusted to the blood-sucking leeches, swarms of carnivorous insects, and constant h ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published August 1st 1996 by Back Bay Books (first published 1995)
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Justin Podur
Oct 25, 2013 Justin Podur rated it it was amazing
One of the giants of primate research and of conservation, Birute Galdikas here describes her life's work with the Orangutans of Borneo. It's an amazing story, mixing her field observations with her biography, which is fascinating and includes her interactions with other giants of the field, Fossey, Goodall, and Leakey. If we had more people like Galdikas, the world would be a better place.
Jan 17, 2008 Valerie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in conservation, rainforests, and primates.
Birute Galdikas has devoted her life to studying and protecting the remarkable orangutans of Indonesia. This autobiographical account of her tenacity in the face of all manner of difficulties is well worth your time. Now in her sixties, she still lives and works in Indonesia, attempting to protect orangutans from habitat destruction, poaching, logging, gold mining, government corruption, the black market in wild animals, and the many people who believe that owning a wild animal confers high stat ...more
Nov 21, 2012 Eve rated it it was amazing
Just basically want to be her.
Jul 24, 2011 dragonhelmuk rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 24, 2007 Brimate rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: primate lovers, nature lovers
Shelves: primates
I finally finished this! It took me about a month, as nonfiction tends to do. Orangutans are my favorite primate, so I'm glad I got to read this. I got Reflections of Eden in January, and the other day I cleaned out my Amazon wishlist and discovered that Reflections of Eden had been on there for almost four years. So I finally read it. I enjoyed it.

Birute Galdikas was one of the earliest long-term orangutan researches. A disciple of Louis Leakey, and like Jane Goodall with chimpanzees and Dian
Heather Browning
Feb 15, 2017 Heather Browning rated it really liked it
I've always thought it would be amazing to study wild orangutans - to live in the jungles of Sumatra or Borneo and observe and learn about these amazing animals. This book both enhanced and diminished this desire. Galdikas captures the magic of the connections made with the animals she observes and rehabilitates, but also doesn't shy away from describing all the unpleasant, uncomfortable and awful situations and conditions that this entails. Most disheartening is her discussion of attempting to ...more
Jun 01, 2012 Andrew rated it it was amazing
What Jane Goodall is to the chimpanzee and Dian Fossey was to the gorilla, Birute Galdikas is to the orangutan. I would venture to say a lot fewer people have heard of Dr. Galdikas than of the other two scientists, even though they were all sent off on their various studies by Dr. Louis Leakey and all work with great apes. However, orangutans are mostly solitary creatures who live their lives in the trees of Indonesia, rather than social land-based animals who lend themselves to photo opportunit ...more
Sep 12, 2016 Kate rated it did not like it
The author displays irritating biases, from the opening paragraphs. The opening scene of the book starts with the author instructing one of the locals employed at the camp to remove leaves that are stuck to a still damp newborn orangutan, who is held in her resting mother's arms. Why? Because the author wants a picture of the newborn, and seemingly knows how to operate a camera but not her fingers to remove the offending leaves herself. The obvious end to this paragraph is that the mother orangu ...more
Jan 22, 2015 Cha rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I've always been fascinated by anthropology, biology, primatology, conservation and 'Leakey's Angels.' I've read a couple of Jane's books. One of Dian's and now finally one of Biruté's! It gives really good insight into her struggles as a scientist and as a human. She dealt with a lot and was very strong throughout (her ex husband is an absolute tool, but I feel weird saying that because she was very kind and forgiving to him in the book). I loved learning about the o ...more
Whirl Girl
Jul 30, 2011 Whirl Girl rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, especially since it coincided with our own trip to Borneo. Her tone was right on, just scientific enough for a non-scientist. I found it fascinating to read about the discoveries that Galdikas made about the lives of wild and rehabilitated orangutans, and the comparisons to humans. It was told as just enough of a story, profiling different orangutans and then explaining how they influenced Galdikas' research and life. She also effectively intertwines her own perso ...more
Dec 11, 2011 Smoothw rated it really liked it
An interesting memoir of time spent living in the jungles of Borneo studying Orangutans. Birute's observation about orangutans are interesting although she was not a good enough writer to make me fall in love with the animals like some other nature writing I have read, although I certainly felt like I was there in her numerous descriptions of living and tromping through the jungle. What really holds the book back is that she has numerous observations about Indonesia and society in general, and h ...more
Deborah Edwards
Jul 30, 2008 Deborah Edwards rated it it was amazing
Shelves: personal-faves
Birute Galdikas was one of the three brilliant primatologists handpicked by anthropologist Louis Leakey (the other two being Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey), but no one seems to know Galdikas as well as the others, and that's a pity. Her work with the orangutans has been groundbreaking for more than two decades, her story is stunning, and she writes like a dream. This book will wind a spell around you and captivate your heart. I guarantee it.
Feb 03, 2017 Marie rated it really liked it
An insight into the dedicated life of Birute Galdikas a remarkable woman caring for and living with orangutans in Borneo while having a family. How I admire these people who dedicate their life to conservation.
Apr 15, 2010 Thalia rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, biography
Very enjoyable read. I appreciated Birute's tone and candor. Highly recommended for anyone interested in "Leakey's Angels" (Birute, Jane (Goodall), and Dian (Fossey)) and the work they did. Birute is a dedicated woman who tells her story plainly, but in no way a dull way. I was fascinated, inspired, and full of respect for the choices she made.
Vanessa Marom
Feb 17, 2015 Vanessa Marom rated it it was amazing
If you re interested in Jane Goodall and Diane Fossey, Birute Galdikas is the third name to add to the list of primatologists of that era and caliber.
This is her autobiography and how her fight for conservation of orangutans started and is going on till this day in Borneo.
Excellent stories and very well written, with a bunch of interesting black and white pictures in the book.
Sep 06, 2011 Brynn rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
Fascinating. Perfect blend of observations about orangutans and personal tribulations. The only problem is that she repeats herself every once in a while and the chapters are at times confusingly non-linear.
Alfred Keep
Apr 06, 2016 Alfred Keep rated it really liked it
This book is easily a 4 star. I wanted to give a 4.5 star. I have the first edition printed in 1995. Birute Galdikas is an incredible primatologist. The book is a very enjoyable read. The book is even more relevant today with the rainforests of Indonesia rapidly disappearing.
Mostly interesting. Call me squeamish or overly Westernized, but I really didn't want to read about an ex-captive male orangutan raping an Indonesian. Scientific observation has its limits. Otherwise, it was nice to learn a bit about these animals and Indonesia.
Feb 14, 2011 Bruce rated it liked it
The descriptions of wild and captive orangs comprise 60%+ of the book and were very interesting - solid 4 star material. I did not enjoy the author's personal story, philosophical ruminations etc. and docked a star because there was too much of this stuff for my taste.
Jan 11, 2008 Claire rated it liked it
Shelves: already-read
Not as good as the Jane Goodall books, mainly because the orangutans really don't make an appearance throughout the book. It's really a book about chasing them. They're private animals, and it was hard for Galdikas to get near them.
Sep 24, 2012 Emma rated it it was amazing
lovely lovely book - orang utans are so close to being humans...if only humans could be as pleasant as orang utans!
Marianne Brabants
how nature is other then just sweet
Jan 21, 2008 Helen rated it really liked it
I used to think that I was passionate about conservation and the environment - this book puts dedication on a whole new level!
Aug 06, 2015 Jade rated it really liked it
Everyone should at least read the last chapter of this book.
Jen Feuerstein
Jen Feuerstein rated it really liked it
Dec 27, 2014
Jerica from America
Jerica from America rated it it was amazing
Oct 02, 2013
Michelle rated it it was amazing
Aug 04, 2012
Amy rated it liked it
Aug 16, 2012
Glenda rated it really liked it
Mar 20, 2014
Lara rated it it was amazing
Nov 09, 2013
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Birutė Marija Filomena Galdikas, OC (born 10 May 1946), is a primatologist, conservationist, ethologist, and author of several books relating to the endangered orangutan, particularly the Bornean orangutan. Well known in the field of modern primatology, Galdikas is recognized as a leading authority on orangutans. Prior to her field study of orangutans, scientists knew little about the species.
More about Biruté M.F. Galdikas...

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“As I sit, my back leaning against a damp, moss-covered tree trunk, my eyes sweeping the canopy above, my ears straining to catch the crack of a distant branch that betrays an orangutan moving in the treetops, I think about how we humans search for God. The tropical rain forest is the most complex thing an ordinary human can experience on this planet. A walk in the rain forest is a walk into the mind of God.” 8 likes
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