Friday, February 25, 2011

LA Zoo Searching Safari + Born To Be Wild 3D = Kids Off The Couch

When the kids were little, we read them Good Night, Gorillanearly as often as Good Night, Moon and loved imagining what happened at the Zoo once everyone went home at night. Watching an early trailer for The Zookeeper reminded us of the beloved childhood book, and its thrilling behind-the-scenes premise. The film won't be in theaters until July 8, but because the animals actually talk (conspiring together to help Kevin James get a date) and because James is the perfect foil in this type of romantic comedy, we will put our heads between a lion's jaw if it isn't one of the summer's big hits.

Kids Off the Couch was invited back stage at the L.A. Zoo a few weeks ago as part of a private event put on by the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA is a non-profit that supports the L.A. Zoo). The chance to explore the environs and animals up-close, without crowds of people and with dedicated activities designed for kids, was pretty neat. We were let into the grounds before the general public and enjoyed a quick breakfast with GLAZA's Safari Club patrons. We explored on our own, chatting with some animal handlers, before participating in a fun, park-wide Scavenger Hunt. We really loved having a private introduction to the elephants in the Zoo's newest exhibit, the Elephants of Asia. One junior reporter was delighted to find an elephant that had the same name as she did, and got a kick out of the way Billy the elephant looked around for food even though he had a bundle of hay in his trunk.

We think it's important to support local institutions, so if your family loves animals, consider a membership to the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, both to save money and encourage more regular visits. A Family membership costs $89 annually, includes transferable guest passes, and allows for two adults and their children to come to the Zoo throughout the year. Safari Club donors, who support the Zoo at the highest levels ($1500 annually), have the opportunity to experience behind-the-scenes events that offer up-close experiences with wildlife, demonstrate wildlife practices, and share the latest developments in zoo research and conservation efforts. The Searching Safari experience that we participated in is one of the many perks to being a Safari Club member, which also includes a Sunset Safari (a festive behind-the-scenes party at the Zoo) and the Zoo Director's Series (intimate gatherings with wildlife experts hosted in private homes). Click here to find a membership level that is right for your family.

Another film we are excited about is Born to Be Wild. The IMAX project hits theaters on April 8 and documents orphaned orangutans and elephants and the extraordinary people who rescue and raise them. Narrated by Morgan Freeman and shot in Borneo and Kenya, the film stars renowned animal experts who are saving endangered species one life at a time. Zoos do more than trot animals out for visitors these days - most big institutions are involved in animal conservation projects of some kind. Click here to read how the L.A. Zoo uses its conservation dollars.

Speaking of Talking to the Animals... Who can forget Rex Harrison's version of Dr. Dolittle? Sorry Eddie Murphy, but there's nothing better than that silly classic, "Talk to the Animals". We also love Madagascar and Born Free -- click here for other good animal films. There are a plethora of great animal books that live alongside Good Night, Gorilla on our shelves. Click here for more kid titles.

Kids Off The Couch

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