What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that it's easy to develop an attachment to the hairy stars of this reality show, so sensitive viewers of all ages may find themselves very affected by the orangutans' emotional ups and downs. And you may find yourself starting the "birds and bees" conversation with young kids after references to sexual maturity and attracting a mate. But otherwise, this engaging series -- which captures some fascinating animal behavior and draws attention to endangered species -- is great family viewing.
What's the story?
ORANGUTAN ISLAND chronicles the challenges and triumphs of a unique society of rehabilitated orphan orangutans, who have been relocated to a protected jungle island in Borneo to -- hopefully -- succeed at living in the wild. The 35 orangutans -- all of whom were orphaned as babies through hunting, development, or inhumane sale as pets -- are young by the species' standards; most range in age from 4 to 6 (maturity isn't reached until age 9). The were raised at a rescue-and-reintroduction center, where staff and volunteers acted as surrogate moms, teaching the animals the basics of surviving in the wild. At \"forest school,\" the orangutan toddlers learned essential skills like foraging for food, avoiding predators, and building sleeping nests. Now, years later, they're slowly being encouraged to live on their own in the closest thing to their endangered natural rainforest habitat that's available: a secluded island sanctuary that will offer them independence as well as ongoing observation and occasional visits from the rescue center staff. But to make it work, the animals will have to shake off their species' instinctive solitude and band together.
Is it any good?
The show chronicles the daily ups and downs of the orangutans' transition. Narration puts words to their behavior, pointing out signs of happiness, melancholy, tension, and jealousy. As viewers become more acquainted with the main "cast" -- including Cha Cha, who has a hard time adjusting to her new surroundings; Daisy, an outgoing 6-year-old; and Saturnus, a rebellious male who likes to be the center of attention -- they'll enjoy watching relationships develop amid the forming social hierarchy.
Orangutan Island is worthwhile entertainment for families, as it exposes viewers to animal behavior and, with some prompting, can instigate thoughtful discussions about conservation, the plight of endangered species, and even global warming. But be forewarned that it's easy to get caught up in the emotional roller coaster of these beautiful animals' struggles, so you may want to check it out before sharing it with particularly sensitive youngsters.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the show's messages about wildlife endangerment and preservation. How do things like deforestation and humans' land use affect other creatures? What types of animals, insects, and plants are being threatened? What does it mean when a species is endangered? What attempts are being made to preserve animals' natural habitats and conserve natural resources? How can people help the efforts at home? Families can also discuss how this show is similar to and different from reality shows focused on humans. Which do you like better? Why?