Humans and wild animals live together as equals in few places on earth. One such place is the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Kenya, where wildlife authority Dame Daphne Sheldrick nurtures baby elephants left behind by ivory poachers. Another is Camp Leakey in Borneo, where primatologist Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas cares for orangutans left homeless and motherless by rainforest deforestation.
In honor of Earth Week 2011, Warner Brothers has released the Imax nature documentary Born to Be Wild. The 3D film is now showing at Connecticut AMC theaters at the regular admission price since it is a brief 45 minutes long.
There’s much here to make us smile and to fascinate children and adults. One of the best scenes in Born to Be Wild shows adult elephants visiting young orphans at Voi Elephant Relocation Center, a halfway point in their return to the wild. “You’re one of us. We love you,” says narrator Morgan Freeman about the moment. The film tugs on our hearts without becoming cloying.
The goal is to reintroduce the animals to the wild when they are ready. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust helps fund Sheldrick’s research and activities in Nairobi and Tsavo National Park. Sheldrick was married to the late conservationist David Sheldrick. Galdikas founded OFI (Orangutan Foundation Interational) which funds her orangutan rehabilitation center operating within Tanjung Puting National Park.
Both women use human surrogates – chosen by the animals themselves, we are told – to nurture the young creatures. Since they are social beings, elephants and orangutans sleep with humans each night. It took Sheldrick years to develop a special milk formula that baby elephants thrive on. Hugging and kissing her charges, Galdikas notices childlike innocence in the orangutans and likens the Bornean rainforest to the Garden of Eden.
The dangers of close interaction with wild animals are not mentioned, although we are shown one newly rescued elephant thrashing and charging. The two women form “real friendships” with the animals. Grown orangutans are shown returning to Camp Leakey for a visit.
Freeman, 73, narrates in rich, grandfatherly tones. The actor will star in Christopher Nolan’s third batman film The Dark Knight Rises, scheduled for release in July 2012.
Nothing can replace a direct experience of nature, but beautiful cinematography by David Douglas seems the next best thing. The film’s website offers educators free lesson ideas and activities suitable for grades 3-5.
If you like Born to Be Wild, you might enjoy: The Last Lions; The Cove.
Subscribe to Secret Agent Gal Reviews.
Born to Be Wild 3D 2011 / G / 45 mins
Cast Overview: Morgan Freeman (Narrator); Dame Daphne Sheldrick; Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas
Director: David Lickley
Genre: Nature, Documentary, Animal Rights