Exploding With Cuteness: "Born to be Wild" Documentary Trailer; Plus, Primate Watching Tips

Exploding With Cuteness: "Born to be Wild" Documentary Trailer; Plus, Primate Watching Tips

Julie Leibach
Published: 01/19/2011

Did your heart melt after watching this? Right when the camera panned to the baby orangutan in blue swaddling clothes, right? Or maybe it was simply upon hearing narrator Morgan Freeman’s mellifluous voice. Whatever the case, I’m guessing that audiences will shed a few awe-inspired tears after seeing Born to be Wild, slated to hit theaters April 8th.

A Warner Brothers Pictures and IMAX 3D production, the documentary journeys into Borneo rainforests and Kenyan savannah with renowned researchers who “rescue, rehabilitate and return these incredible animals back to the wild,” the movie website says. [I haven't seen it yet.]

Adopting animals like that teeny orangutan at the trailer’s beginning is, I admit, an appealing prospect—but largely unfeasible, for obvious reasons. Planning a trip to see such primates in the wild, however, might be more of an option for those of us with travel budgets and vacation time, if not wildlife rehabilitation credentials. Think of it as birding, but for monkeys and apes--call it primate watching. Conservation International’s president Russ Mittermeier has done it, and author Richard Conniff tracked his counting quest in “Primate Central,” appearing in our July-August 2007 issue. For beginners, Mittermeier recommends Madagascar, where lemurs abound. (See adorable photos of a newly-discovered lemur species here.)

As with birding, there are a few measures primate watchers can take to maximize their experience. Mittermeier gave us few, as you’ll see below. For the rest, click here.

Audubon: How do you go about finding monkeys? (They don’t sing!)
Mittermeier: They don’t sing, but they do vocalize a lot. Some vocalize at set times in the day. Some have dawn calls, just like birds do. Some of them make a lot of noise when they’re jumping around in trees. After a while you get good at identifying certain sounds of animals moving through the trees—a small animal makes a different swishing sound than a big one. You can find the nocturnal species by these auditory cues, and also their eyes shine.

A: Can you call them in? (Like pisching for birds?)
M: You can with certain species, not all. You can do playback [recordings of the animals’ cries] with animals that respond to auditory calls. The indri in Madagascar will almost always respond to its territory call. Some of the tamarins and marmosets will respond to a high-pitched whistling sound. They come in looking for a fight. Others that respond to playback include howler monkeys, titi monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, and gibbons.

A: Do you need a tracker?
M: It’s always good, and highly advisable to go out with a local guide who knows the area. I’ve seen more monkeys in the wild than anybody, and I always hire a local guide who knows the fauna and knows the trails. Otherwise you’re pretty sure to get lost. For more tips, click here.

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