What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that watching this series might call for an explanation of the birds and the bees and then some, given all the talk about animal mating and breeding. Scenes of animal surgery aren't very graphic but include serious procedures such as hysterectomies. Zoo professionals often struggle to control large animals like alligators. A small amount of suspense is created by the music and the narration, and younger viewers may need to be reassured.
What's the story?
THE LITTLE ZOO THAT COULD is the real-life story of the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, damaged by hurricanes in 2005 and struggling to reopen before the next tourist season. Every episode shows staff handling animals, introducing new animals and habitats, and feeding and caring for zoo residents. Zoo Director Patti Hill evacuated most of the animals to her personal property farther inland when high winds were threatening; she's the center of the efforts to get the zoo back on its feet. Some episodes focus more on general zoo maintenance and upkeep, but most follow the struggling zoo's attempts to recover from the hurricanes. The zoo gets donations, but staffers still worry about having enough money to keep the facility open and repair the animal habitats.
Is it any good?
The Little Zoo That Could's detailed look behind the scenes of a fairly small zoo will be fascinating to middle graders dreaming of veterinary or other animal careers. Watching zoo staffers cuddle leopard kittens, eat cake with bears, and learn to rope alligators will inspire them.
For kids who aren't as interested in animals, the show's focus on the zoo, rather than the animals themselves, probably means that it won't hold their interest the way more-traditional nature programming might, but if your kids are interested (and ready to handle the almost-constant talk about mating), this is family television.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the way the zoo treats its animals, trying to re-create their natural habits and habitats. Kids might be interested to hear that most zoos were once just rows of cages filled with animals, with few measures taken for the animals' comfort. There's plenty of opportunity to discuss why the zoo's staffers do the things they do: Why do you think she's so careful as she feeds that animal? Why do they handle it like that? Why don't the staff members try to make the animals more domestic?