You all remember the Tyrannosaur movie debacle? It’s taken me all this time to work up enough nerve to go to another science museum movie after leaving the theater with two howling kids in tow. In the interim, we went to see Disney’s African Cats, which was another hot mess (“Mommy, why are all the kittens dead?” etc) and didn’t help my opinion of modern nature documentaries.
When I was reading all the sad reviews of African Cats, dubbing it “most depressing nature film ever made” and that sort of thing, I kept hearing that “Born to be Wild” was a much better nature movie that came out about the same time. I made a mental note that I might like to see that one someday.
I recently replaced my Natural History Museum membership with one to the Science Museum, and they have an IMAX theater. I noticed when I got the new membership that Born to Be Wild was one of the movies playing at the Science Museum Theater. So today, with the start of school literally just around the corner, I decided to take a calculated risk and go see the movie with the kids.
“It’s rated G, right?” I asked the lady at the counter.
“Yes,” she replied, “it’s safe for the kiddos.”
“OK,” I said, launching into TMI territory, “because we had a really bad experience across the street with a 3-D Tyrannosaur movie so I just want to make sure no one gets eaten or anything.”
“Elephants are vegetarians,” she assured me, “you guys are fine.”
Now this- this was a movie after my own heart. It follows two passionate animal welfare advocates- Dr. Birute Galdikas in Indonesia and Dr. Daphne Sheldrick in Kenya.
Dr. Galdikas, like other Louis Leakey proteges before her, has devoted her life to studying primates in their natural habitat. In this case she chose orangutans in Indonesia. She runs an orphanage for orangutans who have lost parents and homes to deforestation, where they are hand raised then returned to the wild.
Dr. Sheldrick lives in Kenya, where she runs an extensive facility for the hundreds of elephants who are orphaned due to poaching, nursing them with 2 liter bottles of elephant formula and sleeping next to scared elephant calves.
My whole life I have admired women who have the nerve and determination to go to the middle of nowhere to better understand and protect nature: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and now I can add these two marvelous women to my list of heroes. I admire the men who do it too, but there is an extra level of nerve required for a woman to take that on by herself in this world, a fearlessness that I adore.
If I had to do it all over again, I can totally see myself skipping vet school, going for a PhD instead and disappearing on another continent to do something similar. My family all laughs when I say that, but I think that is one of those weird compulsions you either get or you don’t, and most people don’t.
So anyway, I’m sitting there in the theater, watching these women at work and marveling at what they have accomplished. My kids are doing fine, as there is no blood involved. At one point in the movie, a young orphaned calf living with a herd of bulls is captured so he can be nursed back to health. Watching his terrified little elephant face, his ears flapping in alarm as he cowers from the men, I couldn’t help it- tears were pouring down my sappy face. And later, when the wild herd of previously rescued orphans returns to the camp to welcome a newly released elephant to the herd, I lost it again.
I feel a little pat on my sniffling chest. I put my hand over my daughter’s, assuming that she is feeling overwhelmed like I am. But she is looking at me intently instead.
“It’s OK, Mommy,” she said. “See? The elephant’s OK.” And resumed patting my hand, murmuring to me about how adorable the orangutans are and how she wants to meet one someday.
Perhaps she will. I hope she does, that she lives in the big world around us and not the tiny world of inconsequential superficiality that surrounds us on a day to day basis. I love that she as into nature as I am. (My son on the other hand was snoring and complaining he was hungry after 10 minutes.) And yes, you all should totally see this wonderful film.
Oh, and if anyone wants to come do this with me, I think I need to do some bake sales or something to save up.
Lisa W says
What a great post! I am passionate about elephants and love the work of the Sheldrick Trust. If I ever win some multi-million dollar lottery (not likely given that my biggest haul so far was $3), not only am I going to have my dog sanctuary, I am going to establish an elephant sanctuary as well.
I love that you lost it over the scared baby elephant, and I love it even more that your daughter was comforting you. So sweet!
Dr. V says
I will come to your elephant sanctuary regularly. 😀
Lisa W says
And BTW, can’t wait to see this movie…
Just caught up on your T-rex movie debacle story from January. Don’t worry! I survived an experience like that and I certainly don’t think it left any lasting damage! You are certainly not the only mother who has made dire miscalculations about these things. When I was 6 or so we were holidaying somewhere (we were living behind the Iron Curtain at the time and it may have been in Russia proper, Estonia or Ukraine). I had been a bit sick and mum decided that a kids movie was a good way to spend the afternoon. There was a cartoon movie at the cinema. This was early 80s in a communist country. Advertisement wasn’t really a part of our world. Other children were going in so mum bought tickets and in we went. It turned out to be a viewing of the Japanese manga cartoon called “Barefoot Gen” portraying a child’s experience of Hiroshima bombing. Early on in the movie, very soon after the blinding flashes of light and cartoon people melting I clearly remember the line “and then the black rain started to fall”. Mum took one look at me turning very pale at this point and just picked me right up and carried me straight out of the theatre. She bought the first toy she could within a 5 minute walk, a plastic yellow duck that spent many years floating in my bathtub. We laught about this now and one of these days I will splash on the dvd to watch it all the way through. I don’t think I asked any questions or even understood until years later what the movie was protraying after I began researching for it.
Dr. V says
Oh, that makes me feel so much better. Not that you went through it but that you look back and laugh. 😀 You must have some fascinating stories…wow!
Sue W. says
” that she lives in the big world around us and not the tiny world of inconsequential superficiality that surrounds us on a day to day basis”
Amen. You have now provided me with a new mantra when I contemplate my son’s future (and my complete lack of control over it).
And I never watch animal documentaries, movies, or anything similar because I always cry, too. “Where the Red Fern Grows” – why did they make us read that in school??? I lost it over that book.
My friend (?) bought me that movie for my birthday once because she knows I’m a dog lover. Seriously! WHO would buy that movie for a dog lover? I still haven’t watched it, and that was probably 15 years ago! Still haven’t mustered up the courage to read Marley & Me either, which my husband bought for me for Christmas the year it was published.
Marley and Me is SO GOOD, especially if you have a spazzy yellow lab… (umm, I do!) HOWEVER, when he got to old age, I simply put the book down. It drives some of my friends crazy that I left it open ended like that and that I can love the book without reading the end, but I don’t care. We all lose dogs, I know it’s going to suck… so I just left it at the hilariousness that was Marley’s life, which I fully relate to with my dog. lol.
I never thought of that! I could probably read it until the old age part. I have a spazzy Lab, but he’s black. 😉
Dr. V says
That’s like a punishment for animal lovers. We read that in sixth grade, all of us six year olds sobbing “why? WHY, teacher?”
I always suspected you were a girl after my own heart, Dr. V 🙂 I’ve always been fascinated by the Dian Fossey’s and Jane Goodalls of the world! My mom’s best friend travels regularly around the world with her partner studying elephants – in Kenya, Sri Lanka and other places. In another life I would be a big cat biologist out there doing my best to save them 🙂
Dr. V says
I grew up never even knowing that was a valid career choice. How awesome is that?
Yay! So glad you saw this movie, I saw it at the premiere and met Dr. Galdikas. She is wonderful! She comes to San Diego and Los Angeles quite regularly, you have to meet her.
I cried a few times during the movie, too. At one point I was just overwhelmed at how much work we have to do to un-do other humans’ destruction. Whew.
That bums me out about African Cats, because Disney has a chimp one coming out around Easter. One of my friends was the guide for the crew in Cote de ivory for the movie… so I am dying to see it. But I hope they don’t make it a depressing movie! Now I’m wary…
Dr. V says
I would LOVE to meet her. I have to see when she’s coming out this way. Your friend was a guide in Cote de ivory? Wow you guys have cool friends.
Disney’s Oceans was great. I don’t know why they made Cats so depressing, but I guess that is just reality. But it was 90 minutes of abandonment, death, and more death.
I used to watch PBS documentary’s all the time as a child. I have seen all kinds of animals do crazy things to other animals, but it hasn’t harmed me at all. It may have given me bad dreams when I was young, but now that I am older it just makes me understand animals more. It also makes me want to protect them because not only do they have to deal with hardships with their own species, but then they have to deal with humans, and lack of habitat, ect.
I too didn’t want to see African cats, because I figured one would die and at that time it was my birthday and I wanted happy things. I went to see Rio instead lol. I will eventually see African cats because I don’t see anything wrong with it, but there is a time and place for everything.
Marley and Me made me mad because I expected a happy/funny movie from the previews/reviews. That is not what I ended up with. I never saw “Where the red fern grows”, so maybe I just wasn’t expecting a bad ending. Even PBS documentary’s turn out good in the end.
I am recovering from surgery and have some free time on my hands, so I have been reading a ton in the past two days about what I want my life to be like. Not to bash anyone, but I just don’t understand why people say things like if I had a do-over of my life or if I won a million dollars I would do X. Well life isn’t a do-over, every second is your life. Why can’t we stop looking at our past and what we would do different and look at what we can do now. Like taking small steps to start a sanctuary for animals or start that animal nonprofit or going to school or changing your career completely. Starting a nonprofit is always in my mind and no matter what I will start one. I don’t know if I will run it, or help someone run it or if someone will beat me to starting the one I want, I just know it will happen. Just my two cents 🙂
Dr. V says
I don’t think there is anything wrong with a little wistful self-reflection. It’s a natural thing to do, to look back and think on things. A lot of times that reflection is what sets us on our future paths. I know Lisa has every intention of starting a sanctuary, for example. I’m perfectly fine with the way my life has turned out but that doesn’t mean I can’t muse on what I might have chosen to do differently, knowing what I do now.
I totally agree!! I work for an animal nonprofit, and it’s the most meaningful work I’ve ever had. But, I still dream of an alternate me helping other animals 🙂
I agree nothing is wrong with a little self-reflection, but my comment was more about motivation and less about talk. I used the above examples because they were in front of me, not to poke fun of one person about a nonprofit or lottery money. I was just pointing out I don’t understand why people say those things, as opposed to making little plans to start on the path of pursuing more dreams. Just because you are working for a great nonprofit, love your life and your job, doesn’t mean you can’t do something else.
Lisa W says
Hi LB — FYI, I am volunteering for a non-profit rescue now, and am taking steps toward making my dog sanctuary a reality. I am learning how much goes into such an effort (including, in my case, designing a building that will suit the needs and enrich the lives of senior dogs), and will be taking a course at Best Friends next year. My wistfulness is more around wishing I could speed things up, I guess, and do more than I am able to do.
Totally in on the orangutan trip with you. I have seen shows about this place and always thought it would be wonderful to do. I think if I had not gotten married so young and had children I would be out there doing something like this. Maybe after the kids are grown. And I have a bunch of bake sales to raise the money.
Oh, and I am right there with you bawling through the nature shows. Doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, I cry. Especially if it involves the babies. Such a sucker I am.
Dr. V says
Those kids, man, they sure do throw a wrench in the whole “leave civilization” bit don’t they? If I thought I could get away with it I’d take em with me. 🙂
You know, vets do that sort of stuff, too. One of my classmates has spent the last few years hopping from a wildlife preserve in Namibia to working with birds in Cambodia. I recently saw her on facebook for the first time in probably 2 years and finally got to chat with her about her adventures. I have to admit I am extraordinarily jealous…
Dr. V says
I do indeed know that vets do that stuff. 🙂 I threw my lot in on a different path for now but there is always the future…