Orangutan Foundation International

Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) has its headquarters in Los Angeles, California. Founded by Dr. Birute Galdikas, one of three anthropologists (The Trimates) to study great apes under the guidance of Dr. Louis Leakey, OFI continues to rescue and rehabilitate orangutans, preparing them for release back into protected areas of the Indonesian rain forest. In addition, OFI promotes the preservation of rain forest, an issue that continues to be of interest in various publications such as the New York Times (January 25, 2007), Los Angeles Times (October 19, 2008), and National Geographic Magazine (November 2008: "Borneo's Moment of Truth.")

Orangutan Foundation International
FounderDr. Biruté Mary Galdikas
FocusConservation, protection, and rehabilitation of orangutans and their natural habitat
  • Indonesia Borneo
Area served
MethodDirect action

Orangutan Foundation International, originally called the Orangutan Research and Conservation Project, was founded by Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas and former husband Rod Brindamour in 1986. The couple started the project to study the ecology and behavior of wild orangutans. The focus later turned towards conservation, protection, rehabilitation, and education of orangutans, which has been an area of interest in various publications including New York Times (January 25, 2007), Los Angeles Times(October 19, 2008), and National Geographic Magazine (November 2008: "Borneo's Moment of Truth.") The OFI's research facilities are located in the Indonesian owned part of Borneo,the third largest island in the world. Camp Leakey is where the research on orangutans is conducted and also where rehabilitated orangutans are released.


The Orangutan Foundation International's mission is to: Support protection, conservation, and understanding about orangutans and their natural habitat while caring for orphaned orangutans and helping them make the transition back into the rain forest. The OFI also educates the public and the government about orangutans, rain forest, and the issues around conservation and protection of the apes and their environment.[2]


The Orangutan Foundation International was founded in 1986 by Dr. Birute Galdikas. The precursor to the OFI was the Orangutan Research and Conservation Project (ORCP), founded in 1971 by Galdikas with the help of Louis Leakey as moral and financial support. While working toward her Ph.D at UCLA, Dr. Galdikas went to see Leakey who was a guest speaker at the school. During the presentation Galdikas learned that Leakey had sponsored both Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey who also worked with primates and decided to ask him to sponsor her as well.[3] Leakey agreed, and Galdikas, Goodall, and Fossey became The Trimates.[4] In honor of Leakey, Galdikas' named the base camp Camp Leakey. The first work of the ORCP was taking orangutans that were being kept as pets from government officials and others. The formation of the ORCP gave Dr. Galdikas the opportunity to conduct 100,000 hours of observation of orangutans.[1] In 1986, the ORCP morphed in the OFI. The new insight from Galdikas' research with the Asian Ape (orangutan) drew a lot of media attention. Galdikas' found that she needed something to turn the attention into positive action and created the OFI. The OFI's goals were a little bit different from its mother. The OFI is "aimed specifically at conservation, rehabilitation, research, and education".[1] Lawyer John Beal visited Camp Leakey in 1979 and after his return to the United States, aided Galdikas' and others in the establishment of The Orangutan Foundation in Los Angeles, California which is headquarters for the OFI[1]

Camp Leakey

What started out to be just two small huts is now a functional research facility. Camp Leakey is where all of the research the OFI conducts on orangutans is done.[5] Others other than the OFI have studied and researched at Camp Leakey including graduate and undergraduate students from multiple institutions such as Universitas Nasional, a college in Indonesia, and universities in the United States. The camp now consists of about 19 miles of trails, rainforest, and swamp land for the rehabilitated orangutans and the wild orangutans that made their home there.[6] The OFI takes in ex-captive, hurt, and orphaned orangutans. Once the ape is in the care of the Dr. Galdikas and her staff, it is raised (if it is young) or treated for any diseases or injuries in the Care Center. The orangutans in the care center are taken each day by their keepers to Camp Leakey to be allowed to play in their natural habitat. This is done to slowly acclimate the orangutans back into the forest so one day they can be released. Once the orangutan is old enough and deemed suitable, it is released back into the wild. Some orangutans never learn to fend for themselves and for that reason can never leave the care center and the staff. Some orangutans do not want to leave the base of the OFI (where the staff eats and lives) and will venture back from time to time to visit the staff and volunteers.[7]


The efforts of Dr. Galdikas and staff have brought about some controversy. An article from Nature says, "The orphaned apes were often psychologically damaged and difficult to control. Some even attacked guests and staffers." Some researchers questioned the value of the information gained from studying the orphaned apes. The critics question if the behavior of the apes mirrors that of a wild orangutan or not. Other people began wondering if the released orangutans would transmit diseases brought by people to the wild orangutan population.[8]

OFI in the media

Sister organizations and partners

  • Orangutan Foundation Canada
  • Australian Orangutan Project
  • Biruté Galdikas Ecology and Support Foundation[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e "History of OFI". Orangutan Foundation International. Retrieved 28 September 2011.
  2. ^ "Mission Statement". Orangutan Foundation International. Retrieved 21 September 2011.
  3. ^ "Born to be Wild 3D interview". tribute.ca. Retrieved 28 September 2011.
  4. ^ "Birute Galdikas". How Stuff Works: A Discovery Company. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  5. ^ "Camp Leakey". Orangutan Foundation International. Retrieved 28 September 2011.
  6. ^ "Wild Orangutans". Orangutan Foundation International. Retrieved 28 September 2011.
  7. ^ Brumby, Jake. "The Orangutans of Borneo". Retrieved 28 September 2011.
  8. ^ "Pioneering Primatologist". Nature. Retrieved 28 September 2011.

External links