Target: Marjorie Kaplan, Group President of Animal Planet, Science Channel & Velocity
Goal: End the illegal and inhumane treatment of animals used in the filming of the Call of the Wildman reality TV show
Call of the Wildman is one of the most-watched programs on the Animal Planet channel. The show depicts a woodsy trapper known as Turtleman and his assistant responding to animal nuisance calls. Their two-man team traps the animals in dramatic scenes highly staged to boost production value and ratings. But beyond marketing this choreography as “reality” television, the show’s producers and sub-contractors have routinely ignored state and federal laws, putting animals at unnecessary risk of physical and mental anguish.
An in-depth investigation by Mother Jones magazine found that while some positive changes have been implemented, producers of the show continue to condone animal treatment that is at best questionable and cruel, and at worst, blatantly illegal. Documents intended to ensure wildlife safety have been improperly filed, and in one instance a zebra was illegally sedated to make it easier to film. In a popular episode, Turtleman ‘rescues’ baby raccoons and their mother living under a suburban home. Despite producers’ denials, evidence shows the babies were kept in cages for prolonged periods away from their mother in order to keep the show on schedule. Ultimately, one of the baby raccoons did not survive.
Karen Bailey, a specialist working with the Kentucky Wildlife Center, treated the baby raccoons after the show wrapped filming. She reminds us that “to put animals in harm’s way, to put these animals in stressful situations and to not look out for their well-being—it’s wrong and it’s disappointing.” Tell Animal Planet that these practices are completely unacceptable, and demand an end to its mistreatment of animals in the name of entertainment.
Dear Group President Kaplan,
Animal Planet’s parent company, Discovery Communications, proclaims a “steadfast commitment to honesty and integrity” in everything it does. A seven-month investigation by Mother Jones magazine into the production of Call of the Wildman has brought to light consistent law-flouting and animal mistreatment that fly in the face of the company’s image of integrity.
According to Mother Jones, the investigation “reveals evidence of a culture that tolerated legally and ethically dubious activities, including: using an animal that had been drugged with sedatives in violation of federal rules; directing trappers to procure wild animals, which were then ‘caught’ again as part of a script; and wrongly filling out legal documents detailing the crew’s wildlife activities for Kentucky officials.”
While some positive changes have been made (such as now including a professional wildlife handler on the show’s set,) viewers still have reason for concern, given the depth and breadth of negligence already seen. I must insist that Animal Planet and producers for Call of the Wildman immediately comply with all relevant laws governing animal treatment, and end the culture that caters to ratings at any price.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Shashi.rangarathna via Wikimedia