This review was originally posted on PublishersWeekly.com.
As orangutans slip into further endangerment due to poaching (mothers are shot in order that babies may be taken as pets) and destruction of their habitat, books such as this may inspire a backdraft of conservation. Written by a primate photographer who has accompanied Galdikas through Borneo’s rainforests, this first entry in the Great Naturalists series introduces the famed primatologist and her passion. With Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall, Galdikas completes the primate research triangle whose participants were mentored by the late Louis Leakey. And like these contemporaries, Galdikas possesses remarkable determination. Orangutan research proves especially daunting: “unlike the highly social chimpanzees, great apes . . . who travel on the ground, orangutans live alone in the trees and travel by swinging.” Each day, Galdikas traveled far from camp, “drenched by rain, caked with mud, and bleeding from leech bites”; she endured “mysterious infections,” subsisted on canned sardines, and watched her scant belongings rot in the extreme humidity.
In brief, well organized chapters and highly readable prose, Gallardo interlaces intriguing observations of orangutans with the life of their patient observer and rehabilitator. The book will rouse readers of all ages not only to a curiosity for primates, but also to admiration for those who brave adversity to eke out a larger understanding of the natural environment. Ages 8-12.