(From left: Biruté Galdikas, Jane Goodall, and Dian Fossey)
These three women were hand selected by the anthropologist Louis Leakey to study the behaviours of orangutans, chimpanzees, and mountain gorillas for the purpose of uncovering the relationship between primates and the environment. Although Leakey was specifically interested in tying their observations to human evolution, these women were pioneers in their fields, uncovering vast amounts of information regarding great ape behaviour and ecology. By the time of Leakey’s death, Goodall and Fossey had conducted massive amounts of research in Gombe and the Virunga mountains, while Biruté Galdikas was just beginning her work in Indonesia. A fourth researcher, Toni Jackman, was also planning to leave for the purpose of research into bonobo behavioural ecology, but inadequate funding resulted in her being unable to leave.
These women are marvels of primatology - brave, intelligent, and committed to conservation, even to the point of death in the case of Fossey. Their work has shaped our understanding of our own evolution as well as the evolution of our closest relatives. They are truly inspiring!