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Film Explores Rescue and Release of Wildlife Orphans

Scene from movie Born to be Wild

Born to be Wild is an inspiring Earth Day movie about the remarkable bond between humans and animals. Shot in 3-D and the big-screen IMAX format, it transports moviegoers into the exceptional life of two extraordinary women dedicated to saving endangered wild animal orphans: orangutans in Borneo in one case and elephants in Kenya in the other. Both women have made careers of rehabilitating the orphans and returning them to the wild.

The 3D IMAX movie Born to be Wild is a joy for the eyes and the soul. It offers insights into the life of baby elephants and orangutans, and through the lives of two extraordinary women, explores the remarkable emotions and intelligence of wild animals.

Daphne Sheldrick is an elephant expert who runs a baby elephant orphanage on the edge of Nairobi National Park in Kenya, in east Africa. So far she has saved, raised and freed 130 elephants. “This is the first time that elephants have been raised in captivity and returned to where they really belong in the wild,” she said.

Sheldrick says she's impressed by elephants’ intelligence and the many abilities they have that humans do not, such as communicating with low frequency sounds over long distances or detecting earthquakes through their feet. In the movie, Sheldrick shares the heartbreaking story of elephant orphans traumatized after seeing their mothers butchered by ivory poachers, the slow rebuilding of their trust in humans and their re-introduction to the wild.

“The joy comes when you succeed in raising an orphan that came in absolutely damaged and just wanted to die and you see it coming to life, beginning to play, growing up and eventually having its own wild born young again. And that’s the cherry on the cake,” she said.

In Borneo, Biruté Mary Galdikas is a primatologist and the president of Orangutan Foundation International. Orangutans are on the verge of extinction as their habitat continues to be disrupted by poaching, illegal logging, and the development of palm oil plantations. For the past 40 years, Galdikas and a team of caregivers have been saving orphaned orangutans.

“We have caregivers and what they do is they take the orangutans into the forest every day and they let the orangutans teach each other,” Biruté Mary Galdikas.

Here the movie takes a light-hearted turn. Orangutans, particularly the young, are famous for their comical behavior.

Born to Be Wild was not an easy film to make.

Writer and producer Drew Fellman says doing a 3D movie in the wild was an amazing technical challenge. He says carrying nearly 14,000 kilograms of equipment through the jungle of Borneo and around big elephants in Kenya was a story in itself.

“We had probably a couple million dollars worth of IMAX camera gear, 30-40 adult elephants walking within feet away. Fortunately we got out of it lucky. The orangutans, they never broke anything, but they would help. Sometimes we catch them trying to start our generators up or holding reflectors, they became a little bit more of the crew,” Fellman said.

With its powerful visuals and compelling story, Born To Be Wild is a persuasive appeal to protect - and respect - wildlife. As Daphne Sheldrick says, “When you love an animal enough you must give it freedom.”