You may have heard of Jane Goodall and her dedicated work with chimpanzees. You may also have come across the names of the late Dian Fossey and Biruté Galdikas, who supported research efforts around endangered gorillas and the orangutan, respectively. But have you ever wondered why they became well known, or what it might take to live a life in the jungle?
Primates‘s graphic novel format makes their stories accessible. Readers will learn, for example, how Jane’s observations led to the need to redefine the term “man,” how Dian got right into ‘the scoop of things’ through her dung swirling technique, and about the accident that left Biruté’s bottom looking like a “burnt marshmallow.” They’ll also find out how all three women’s work stemmed from that of archaeologist and naturalist Dr. Louis Leakey.
This graphic novel offers a somewhat fictionalized telling of the trials and tribulations of the three female primatologists’ lives and their groundbreaking work as they observed the lives of chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans.
While gender gaps are being addressed, it is still rare to come across literary material that showcase the notable work of female role models. Past the appeal of the book jacket and the beautiful illustrations, what attracted me to this graphic novel was the focus on three powerful and dedicated women who made a difference in the history of science. The addition of a real photo of the three primatologists standing together as if they are in discussion, as well as a list of resources at the back of the book, encourages further curiosity about the lives of these scientists. The book can also be a route to building awareness about primates’ increasingly endangered habitats, and to furthering the fight for the preservation of what remains today.