An investigation conducted by Mother Jones uncovered some disturbing things going on behind the scenes of Animal Planet’s hit show “Call of the Wildman” that involved “drugs, death and neglect” for its animal stars.
The show follows the work of Ernie Brown, Jr. (aka Turtleman), a wildlife rescuer based in rural Kentucky, but the investigation found that the rescues portrayed on the show weren’t just staged, they were putting the animals involved in serious danger. By some accounts, they didn’t need help until the crew showed up.
It’s not really surprising to find out that most of the show is staged and scripted, but what the serious allegations of animal mistreatment, neglect and violations of state law that are being made against Animal Planet and Sharp Entertainment, the production company it teamed up with, are surprising.
According to Mother Jones, its seven-month investigation revealed “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.”
More than a million viewers tuned in to watch an episode that was centered around removing a raccoon and her cubs from a home, but a callous move on the part of the show nearly killed the three baby raccoons who were featured in the episode.
According to Mother Jones, rehabber and newborn raccoon specialist Karen Bailey warned producers that keeping the babies away from their mother without proper care for as long as they wanted to would be a death sentence. Arrangements were made to have the show end at a clinic, but by that time they got there they were so sick the clinic took them to Bailey, who described them as dehydrated, emaciated and in need of critical care. Two were saved, but one wasn’t so lucky.
As it turns out, the mom featured on the show wasn’t even a female and the raccoon cubs were clearly never reunited with their mother. According to Mother Jones:
Sharp says it’s against their policy to hire people to trap animals. But my production sources say that the show didn’t happen to come into the possession of rescued animals just in time for these elaborate setups: It actively sought specific species to be placed on sets and chased by Turtleman, in scenes that sacrificed the well-being of the animals for entertainment. Records pertaining to trapping and transport procured by Mother Jones confirm the practice of commissioning people to hunt for animals, and paying for their services.
Unfortunately, the raccoons weren’t the only ones who suffered from the show’s quest for popularity.
A wallaby was moved across state lines without a proper permit, which violates federal regulations on interstate trafficking of wildlife. Mexican free-tailed bats were put in a salon to be removed by Turtleman, some of who died. Yet another troubling incident included chasing and tackling a zebra who was sedated, which was a violation of the owner’s license.
Producers aren’t pulling episodes, firing anyone or taking any responsibility for the harm that’s been done. They’re just shifting the blame to subcontractors and in some cases justifying their actions by claiming the “nuisance” animals used for the show would have been euthanized anyway.
However, the Mother Jones investigation has prompted federal officials to look into the matter and decide whether an investigation is warranted. According to CNN, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently “fact-finding” to see if anything that was done on the show violated the Animal Welfare Act.
No Animals Were Harmed
As Mother Jones notes, the show is exempt from the rules that require monitoring from the American Humane Association (AHA), but even the AHA’s No Animals Were Harmed disclaimer that’s added to credits has been proven to be worthless anyway.
Please sign and share the petition asking Animal Planet to stop sacrificing the well-being of the animals its exploiting for ratings.
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