This is the epic story of three women who embarked on lifelong journeys to study and protect humanity’s closest living relatives: the great apes. That is, the other great apes. Humans are, after all, part of the same family. In fact, we share 96 per cent of our DNA with certain species due to sharing a common ancestor millions of years ago.
Our closest cousin is the chimpanzee, followed by the gorilla and finally by “the man of the forest,” as the majestic orangutan is called in Borneo. We share many behavioural habits and personality traits, yet half a century ago, we hardly knew anything about these great apes outside of what we’d seen in King Kong or Tarzan movies.
Three young women changed all that and much more: Jane Goodall, who left England to live with the chimpanzees of Tanzania and became one of the most famous scientists of our time; American Dian Fossey, who championed the mountain gorillas of Rwanda and, though she met a tragic end, made her cause legendary; and Canadian Biruté Galdikas, who went into the deepest jungles of Borneo to live among the orangutans. They came to be known as the Trimates, and were celebrated in National Geographic features and in films.
Each one crossed the line from pure science to passionate advocacy. And while their stories all began in isolation decades ago, their collective work served to open the world’s eyes to the wonder of the great apes, the crisis of their disappearing rainforest habitats and the state of the planet as a whole.
The Trimates also became powerful role models for a generation of young women around the world, many who were inspired to follow their lead as students, scientists and passionate defenders of our primate relatives. This documentary not only tells the story of the pioneering generation, but follows the adventures of three young women who were inspired by the Trimates to make the same choice to live with the great apes of Africa and Borneo.
Julia Badescu was a young immigrant girl in Calgary who dreamed of one day walking in the footsteps of the “badass women” she’d learned about who lived all alone in the jungle. After earning her doctorate in primatology, her dream came true. Today, she walks the hills of Uganda and lives among the chimpanzees.
Julia talks about how she dreamed of living in the forest with animals as a young girl.
Nadia Niyonizeye is a young Rwandan gorilla researcher who climbs up steep mountains every day into the world of the mountain gorillas. This was Dian Fossey’s world too, and, inspired by her example, Niyonizeye follows and studies the descendants of the primatologist’s beloved gorillas.
Ruth Linsky grew up in Edmonton and was a self-described “rebel without a cause” until she discovered her passion in Borneo. Inspired by a primatology class taught by Biruté Galdikas, Linsky went to do volunteer work with Galdikas in the rainforest and has since become a scientist in her own right.
Louis Leakey selected three women to study the great apes, they inspire others today
Baby orangutans get a second chance at life at a Borneo orphanage
Biruté Galdikas is a famous primatologist that you’ve probably never heard of
She Walks with Apes, narrated by two-time Golden Globe winner, Canadian actress Sandra Oh, is a visually stunning portrait of mysterious worlds, extraordinary creatures and passionate ideas. It’s also a film about determination, tragedy and redemption. We may think we know about the lives, work and lasting impact made by Goodall, Fossey and Galdakis, but this documentary lays out the whole epic story in a way no one has done before.
Written, Produced, and Directed by
Wildlife Film Consultant
Directors of Photography
Original Music Composed by
Line Producer & Production Manager
Drone Operator, Borneo
Assistant Editor & Production Assistant
Kris De Freitas
Jane Goodall Institute Canada:
Andria Teather, Victoria Foote
Uganda Wildlife Authority, Africano Kusemererwa
Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International:
Tara Stoinski, Winnie Eckardt,
Felix Ndagijimana, Veronica Vecellio
Rwanda Academy of Language and Culture, Rwanda Development Board
Prosper Uwingeli, Chief Park Warden, Volcanoes National Park, Innocent Kevin
Orangutan Foundation International
Ibu Waliyati and the Staff of the Orangutan Care Centre and Quarantine - OFI
Lahuka Indonesian Expedition Services Ltd., Linda Lindawaty
The Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry
Tanjung Puting National Park
Anne E. Russon, PhD, York University, Toronto
Stock Footage and Archival Material provided by
The Jane Goodall Institute
Orangutan Foundation International
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International
52 Media Inc.
Adrian Warren/Last Refuge
Bob Campbell Papers, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
CBC Archive Sales
Gean A. Baron for the Courier-Journal Kentucky
Central Washington University
International Animal Rescue
MARKA/Alamy Stock Photo
Hugo van Lawick, National Geographic Image Collection
Robert Campbell, National Geographic Image Collection
Rod Brindamour, National Geographic Image Collection
National Geographic Partners
The Leakey Family Archive, Turkana Basin Institute, Nairobi, Kenya
The Leakey Foundation
Tigress Productions Ltd.
Gorillas in the Mist, Universal Pictures/Warner Bros./The Guber/Peters Company
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Grand Passage Media Inc.
©2019 Primate Legacy Inc.
General Manager, Programming
Executive Director, Unscripted Content
Senior Director, Documentary
Senior Director of Production, Unscripted Content
Executive in Charge of Production
The Nature of Things
with David Suzuki
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
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