Friday, July 22, 2011

Tennessee Aquarium Volunteer Talks About Born to be Wild 3D

 The Tennessee Aquarium was very fortunate to have Lori Perkins, Zoo Atlanta's director of animal programs, help with the launch of "Born to be Wild 3D." Not only is Lori an orangutan expert, but she has also been to Borneo to meet Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas, one of the women featured in this amazing IMAX film. Perkins is concerned by the plight of all great apes and knows that orangutans would be in much worse shape if not for the work of Dr. Galdikas. "Development has created a situation where orangutans have only scattered pockets of habitat left," said Perkins. "The wilderness is not simply shrinking around them, it's being cut down in a patch-work fashion that leaves only islands of habitat among the developed areas. It's really sad."

Galdikas is the president of the Orangutan Foundation International. She has dedicated her life to wild orangutan research and saving orphaned baby orangutans. In the film viewers are captivated by these fun-loving animals and the devotion shown by their caretakers as they are raised just long enough to be returned to the wild. If that were all this film would be about, audiences would be satisfied.

 But of course the other "half" of this story takes place in Kenya. Here audiences meet Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick and the adorable baby elephants she rescues and rehabilitates for reintroduction to the wild. Sheldrick is an amazing woman who established the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in 1977, following the death of her husband who was regarded as one of the world's leading authorities on African wildlife.

 The Aquarium has another connection to this film. As it turns out, Louis Spencer is friends with Dr. Sheldrick. Spencer is one of the Aquarium's volunteer docents. He's always ready to share animal information with our guests whenever he's on duty in River Journey or Ocean Journey. Now, he has more inside information to share about Dr. Sheldrick's work.

 "I have been organizing and leading safaris to East Africa since 1985," said Spencer. "I met Daphne in the early 1990's and have been supporting her through donations and bringing my groups to visit her and the elephants ever since.
 According to Spencer, traveling to Kenya is fairly modern these days which makes it a relatively easy destination for tourists and group leaders. And for those who can't make such a long journey, "Born to be Wild 3D" is the next best thing to being there. "The film is great," said Spencer. "IMAX does a fantastic job of setting the story up and telling the story of my friend Daphne and Dr. Galdikas. The film really did a great job of highlighting the dedication of these two women who have dedicated their whole lives to saving animals."
 Spencer describes Sheldrick as a very nice person who is dedicated to the preservation of ALL wildlife, not just elephants. As a result, she is in great demand around the world. "When I last visited her in November, she was off to Japan the next day to give a lecture," said Spencer. "She's very involved with various international conservation efforts."

Spencer says in some ways Kenya is different today, yet sadly is still the same in other respects. "When you travel to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, you are going to her house," said Spencer. "When I first visited in the early 90's, you pretty much had the place to yourself. Today, because of international exposure like National Geographic, there can be nearly 500 people at the orphanage on some days. And it's only open one hour a day. Of course that's great because the money generated supports the program. And when I take a group we pay an extra fee for a private tour to get a more personal experience."

Unfortunately, poaching still exists, so the care provided by Dr. Sheldrick's staff will be needed for the foreseeable future. The land remains rugged and so vast that effectively patrolling the entire area is virtually impossible.

Spencer dashed off an e-mail to let his friends know he'd seen them recently on a six-story screen in downtown Chattanooga. "After I saw the film I sent Daphne a little note to let her, Edwin and the other guys know that I had seen them. She responded by saying how much they enjoyed making the film."

Come see "Born to be Wild 3D" on Thursday, August 4th at 6:00 pm. After the film we'll have an informal meet and greet with Louis Spencer. You can learn more about what it's like to be face-to-trunk with dozens of playful pachyderms. Hope to see you then!

1 comment:

Aaran said...

Great post.
For managed wildlife carefully then population of wildlife can be conserved forever Wildlife Volunteer doing work.
Volunteer in Africa