Just in time for Earth Day, Disney Nature Films gives us their latest and eighth offering, Monkey Kingdom. It's a lavish nature documentary that follows a newborn monkey and its mother as they struggle to survive within the competitive social hierarchy of the Temple Troop, a dynamic group of monkeys who live in ancient ruins found deep in the storied jungles of South Asia.
The star of the film is Maya a toque macaque whose world is changed when her son Kip becomes part of her extended family. Maya’s family has its share of diverse personalities and she wishes her son to have the best advantages for advancing within the family's social strata. When their home is overrun by a neighboring tribe of monkeys, the family has to find a new home. Maya uses her inherent smarts to lead the family to new resources, but it develops that the entire group will have to cooperate in order to reclaim their original home, where Maya wishes to advance her son's future within the family.
I had the opportunity to chat with the very knowledgeable Maria Franke, who is the curator of Mammals at the Toronto Zoo to find out more about these endangered monkeys and what she thought of Monkey Kingdom.
Franke, who earned her master’s in conservation biology at the U.K.’s University of Kent — and in the wilds of Papua, New Guinea, studying the tree kangaroo — has been with the Toronto Zoo for close to 30 years. Before that, she worked at the Antwerp Zoo in Belgium and the Stuttgart Zoo in Germany. Click on our interview below.
Monkey Kingdom hits theaters on April 17th, 2015