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.”
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.