If there are animal lovers or veterinarian wannabes in your household, now’s the time to plan a visit to Fernbank Museum of Natural History, where the enchanting “Wildlife Rescue” exhibit has just opened. Focusing on wildlife rescue, rehabilitation and the task of returning animals to their natural environments, the exhibit easily captures the hearts of patrons both young and old. For example, you will get a sense of how orphaned elephant calves and baby orangutans are raised, lovingly rehabilitated and then released back into their natural habitats. Learning of the amazing bonds formed between wildlife experts and orphaned baby animals is both heartwarming and inspirational. 
Going far beyond the typical look-and-see type of museum experience, this is truly a hands-on exhibit. Attendees can get a feel for what it’s like for elephants to control their trunks in order to pick up objects; help perform “surgery” on an injured turtle’s shell; watch medical procedures being done on animals; view X-ray images of injured wildlife; and learn how waterfowl are being saved from disastrous oil spills. With plenty of interactive games and simulators, the opportunities for exploration and learning are plentiful. One caution: Younger children may see something that catches their eye and could easily scamper away from you in this spacious floor plan. 
At the end of the exhibit, attendees are given the opportunity to think about what they can do for wildlife rescue by digitally registering their personal commitments. I was disappointed that the “Wildlife Rescue” exhibit ends by requiring guests to exit through an “extra” gift shop devoted to related goods and trinkets (from books and toys to masks). It just caught me off guard. We parents like to avoid the “Can I have something?” episodes when possible. 
It’s also worth mentioning that the learning and fun here do not stop with “Wildlife Rescue.” Fernbank’s permanent “Walk Through Time in Georgia” boasts a rich history of Georgia, and exhibits including “Reflections of Culture” and “Sensing Nature” are also included in museum admission.   
Special showings of the 40-minute IMAX film Born to be Wild, featuring an elephant calf reserve and an orangutan nursery, are also available on the huge screen (additional fee). The film is beautiful, and an excellent complement to “Wildlife Rescue.” There are several showtimes each day, and it’s a good idea to reserve your time in advance.

– Dana diLorenzo

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