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Moviegoers take a walk on the wild side

Zoo brings exotic animals to the cinema

POSTED: December 28, 2011 4:00 a.m.
Michele Hester Dawson Community News/

Ten-month-old William Robinson checks out a snake with grandpa Kevin Cheek on Friday when Chestatee Wildlife Preserve brought animals to the local movie theater for the opening of “We Bought a Zoo.”

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Moviegoers took a walk on the wild side last week at the cinema in Dawsonville.

Chestatee Wildlife Preserve, a nonprofit zoo and rescue in Dahlonega, brought several exotic animals to the theater Dec. 23 to celebrate the opening of "We Bought a Zoo," starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson.

Molly Potts, cinema manager, said the response was great from children and adults alike.

"We have a lot of people stopping to see the animals and taking pictures of them," she said.

Potts said she hoped the publicity would encourage more people to visit and support the zoo.

"This was something we wanted to do to help Chestatee Wildlife Preserve and also to help promote the movie, which is really a good family movie and we don't have a lot those," she said.

Linda Delarios of Forsyth County was excited to see the animals.

"These animals are awesome. I haven't been to the zoo, but my son is homeschooled so I think we definitely should check it out," she said.

Zoo founder and general manager C.W. Wathen said he was glad to have the opportunity to showcase some of the preserve's 450 animals.

"We have more than 125 species, mostly exotics, like grizzly bears, camels and white tigers. We have several tigers," he said.

Most of the animals are rescues.

"We save a lot of the animals that would normally be put down and give them a home for the rest of their lives," Wathen said.

The zoo operates solely on donations and volunteers to feed, house and care for the animals.

"We just want people to know that we're here, within 15 minutes from Gainesville or Dawsonville," Wathen said.

The zoo is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, weather permitting. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children.

For more information, call (678) 859-6820, or visit www.chestateewildlife.com.

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