Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

The Wildlife Docs

The Wildlife Docs

Spring 2015 Television
Ages: 13 - 16 yrs.
Rating: TV G

If the quality of a Saturday morning television program can be judged by how it treats its animals, then "The Wildlife Docs" is a great show. Now in its second full season, and airing nationwide on ABC affiliates, it takes viewers behind the scenes at Busch Gardens Tampa where a staff of dedicated and compassionate veterinarians and professional animal-care specialists handle the routine health care and medical emergencies of the park's 12,000 exotic animals.

While "The Wildlife Docs" is named for its human caregivers, it's the adorable patients that steal the show. Recent episodes featured a cute little Malaysian tiger cub in need of surgery, a not-so-bouncy toddler kangaroo requiring 24-7 care and nurturing to beat a serious infection, and an aging and lethargic two-toed sloth.

The series occasionally has some scenes that might prove distressing for younger children (see age recommendation). Sick animals can be troubling to watch. Life-threatening emergencies happen. In one episode, a pregnant gorilla goes into labor prematurely, requiring a risky cesarean delivery in a hospital operating-room setting. The unconscious mother gorilla looks to be in bad shape, and her newborn at first isn't breathing on its own. In the end, both recover nicely. And the second part of the episode shows the baby all grown up getting a routine check-up. The show may get a little dramatic at times, but it doesn't overreach the sensitivity limits of its audience.

Narrated by actress Rachel Reenstra, each program introduces viewers to facts about the highlighted species before focusing on their medical cases at hand. So, as in one episode featuring one of Busch Garden's Veterinarian Careers Camps, by the time the high-school and college aged campers are diagnosing the odd behavior of a red-footed tortoise or the broken bones of a rescued young eagle, they (and viewers) know a lot about tortoises and eagles in general.

Will your kids want to go to Busch Gardens after watching the show? It's possible. But at no point does this endearing, inspiring and educational program itself seem blatantly commercial. It's all about the animals…and the people who care for them.

Don Oldenburg   ©2015 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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