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Moviegoers walk on the wild side
Zoo brings exotic animals to cinema for special premiere
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William Robinson, 10 months, checks out a snake with grandpa Kevin Cheek. - photo by Michele Hester

Moviegoers took a walk on the wild side Friday afternoon at the cinema in Dawsonville.

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

Molly Potts, cinema manager, said the response has been 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 home-schooled 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 zoo'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 were here, within 15 minutes from Gainesville or Dawsonville," Wathen said.

The zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 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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