Brimate's Reviews > Reflections of Eden: My Years with the Orangutans of Borneo

Reflections of Eden by Birute M.F. Galdikas
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Feb 20, 08

bookshelves: primates
Recommended for: primate lovers, nature lovers
Read in February, 2008

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 Fossey with gorillas, she sought to learn about the elusive, (supposed) solitary orangutan. She was the first to discover many things and disprove misconceptions about orangutans. in addition to her important research, Galdikas pioneered an ex-captive orangutan rehabilitation and conservation program, which in the early days involved herself finding loggers in the forest, informing them of their illegal activity, and taking their captive orangutans back to camp to later release into the wild.

I learned important things about orangs that I somehow had missed in physical anthro and primatology. granted, Galdikas discovered many aspects of orangutan life and disproved many assumptions, but that was decades ago. i just took primatology four years ago and i somehow missed the fact that orangs are now known to be only semi-solitary, among other discoveries.

so despite the classes i took and this book being a popular-type book (as opposed to field research findings in a scientific journal), i learned much about orangs. i also learned about another interest of mine, bornean and dayak culture. i learned about indonesian/malaysian and dayak customs, beliefs, and practices, and i learned a few additional words. galdikas presents similarities and differences between orangs and humans and offers interesting suggestions about human evolution, human nature, and human societies.

one of the striking features of this book is galdikas' honesty about her feelings, relationships, and uncomfortable/embarassing interactions with others (mostly orangs). i appreciate her feminist observations in different matters.

Reflections of Eden was easy to read, educational, and occasionally funny. also, occasionally sad. her book offers a strong message of the need for rainforest conservation, to protect orangs, other animals, the forest itself, and ultimately humans.

this book wasn't as eye-opening for me as Roger Fouts' Next of Kin, but I think I read his book at the right time in my life, when I didn't know about primates and the other subjects he covers. But I still learned from this book, and enjoyed it, and my resolve to do what I can to help stop orangutan extiction is renewed (I'll go check out which sources of palm oil are okay, and which aren't). I have been wanting to visit Tanjung Puting, the wildlife reservation where Galdikas words, and I'll seriously look into it now.

Great book, and Birute Galdikas is a great woman.
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