In the Lion's Den on Animal Planet

Dec 19th, 2005, 05:30 AM
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In the Lion's Den on Animal Planet

Did anyone watch the "In the Lion's Den" documentary on Animal Planet last night? In it, a "biologist" attempted to get within several feet of a pride in Thornybush Game Reserve.

If so, did you find it as offensive as I did? Was there any point to it? I was really rooting for a kill, and not of a warthog or wildebeast.

thit_cho is offline  
Dec 19th, 2005, 06:41 AM
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Hi Michael,

I watched the show but had a little different take on it than you did.

The main thing I got from the show, and the point I think the main researcher was trying to make (although obviously he was not extremely successful as I'm sure you are not the only one who had a negative reaction to the show) was that lions are not naturally aggressive toward humans, ie: they do not see humans as prey.

That doesn't mean (a point I think was made pretty clear in the show) that you should feel safe approaching lions on the ground. On the contrary, the show stated many times you should not do this, that the things being done in the show were being done by a trained professional.

In my mind. at least, I will feel much more comfortable when my son and I return to Tanzania in June and possibly experience a lion in our tented camp. I now know that I'm not considered prey, that I should not stare at the lion's eyes (considered a "dare" - my word), that I should not stand and directly face the lion (considered threatening by the lion), that I should not raise my voice and if talking, try to talk as calmly and gently as possible (loud talking aggitates a lion), and that I should not run (a lion associates running with prey).

I also think the show in general was very positive towards lions and, again, showed that they are not naturally inclined to go after you just because you are not sitting in a vehicle.

wjsonl is offline  
Dec 19th, 2005, 07:10 AM
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The problem with that show is that so much of what that guy did is exactly what not to do. For instance,I was absolutely amazed that the game rangers didn't stop production when he layed down.

On the other hand, what took weeks for him to get that close to the lions, I have frequently encounted small numbers of lions and even large prides on bush walks at extremely close ranges. Lions have becomed increasingly habituated to man's presence in a lot of places. But that never means it was entirely safe or that the stuff this character was doing is a good idea. I have seen lions starving because they were unable to bring down anything. Can you imagine walking in the vicinity of a hungry lion let alone a pissed off lioness with cubs-from he who has been mocked charged a couple times.

Basically this show is about a guy who is on the self promotion kick, telling people he knew what he is doing, didn't respect the professionals years of experience, and presented himself as an expert. What is Animal Planet thinking of?
luangwablondes is offline  
Dec 19th, 2005, 07:16 AM
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I didn't see it... but I tend not to react well to exhortations to "do as I say and not as I do".

I'll keep an eye out for it.

Thanks Michael.
Kavey is offline  
Dec 19th, 2005, 07:32 AM
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I watched it too. Interestingly enough, this same guy, Dave Salmoni, along with filmmaker John Varty, tried to reintroduce two tigers back into the wild in South Africa a few years ago, which also aired on Animal Planet.
After two years of the re-introduction, the tigers eventually learned to kill on their own but I have no idea what's become of them since.

The only point and main thing I, too, got from the show was that animals can live alongside humans if not threatened and given ample space. It was stated at the beginning of the show how habituated the lions had become to vehicles, as most of us have experienced on safari.

On the flipside, are humans willing to live alongside animals without threatening the animals' well-being? With their habitats shrinking on a daily basis while we take up more space, it does pose an interesting dilemna.

Most of us know that given the right amount of time and dedication, animals can learn to trust humans. However, it does not make them any less wild. And it is what we do with that trust that makes the difference.

divewop is offline  
Dec 19th, 2005, 08:08 AM
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I did not see it so I cannot comment directly but this new hot genre of approaching wildlife and sensationalizing the encounters is annoying to me. I guess it is what audiences want now which is ashamed.

I did see some of the tiger introduction thing. It is offensive to me that Animal Planet supports such projects. Tigers have never lived in Africa -- it is just unethical to put them there and completely not right for prey species that have no history with tigers to all of a sudden be taken down by one. To think of all the important research that goes underfunded, under staffed, and under reported while these things get money and publicity. Not good for the Planet's animals.
PredatorBiologist is offline  
Dec 19th, 2005, 08:43 AM
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What purpose was served in habituating a lion cub to approach people on foot? What is the message that he was giving these cubs like Mighty Mouse (name?).

In the back of my mind during the whole show was this gnawing suspicion that some bozo is going to try and walk up to some lions and get killed in the process, just because the expert planted the idea in his head. Leading naturally to the offending lions being but down for something that comes naturally and really not their fault. And there are a lot of parks where walking is allowed without a ranger like in Zimbabwe or the self drive in just about any park can try without anyone watching.
luangwablondes is offline  
Dec 19th, 2005, 08:46 AM
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PB, sadly it's becoming a more and more common style of wildlife "documentary".

The success of Mad Mike and Mark doesn't help either.

I strongly dislike these two and don't find their lack of respect for the normal rules as clever or entertaining as many seem to. Many wildlife photographers and cameramen obtain stunning footage without the need to behave as these two do.

On top of this, we've been told more than once by guides that their show is directly impacting on behaviour much more widely - tourists are demanding that their guides take them closer to the wildlife and when the guides explain that it's either dangerous or it's disruptive to the animals the tourists respond that if Mad Mike and Mark can do it they want to do it too. This means that the guides end up sticking to their guns and getting stiffed on the tip or ignoring their better judgements in order to secure the tip.

Instead of being lambasted for their behaviour they are rewarded by TV companies ordering more of the same and travellers clammering to book them as guides for their own trips.

Kavey is offline  
Dec 19th, 2005, 08:58 AM
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Agreed. Those two are a right pair of pillocks.
napamatt is offline  
Dec 19th, 2005, 09:22 AM
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His use of catty-watty baby-waby talk really discredited him, in my opinion. It reminded me of Tim Treadwell in the Grizzly Man documentary - how he'd walk towards the grizzlies cooing "Oh - you're a big one aren't you - you big brown chocolate bear". Blech!

Toshi is offline  
Dec 19th, 2005, 09:29 AM
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Kavey: you are right on. With these representations becoming the norm it changes the expectations of visitors and definitely puts the guides in a bad spot.
PredatorBiologist is offline  
Dec 19th, 2005, 10:09 AM
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I was hoping Mighty Mouse (the cub) would have gotten closer and thus, the rest of the pride would have come to little Mighty Mouse's rescue! And what was up with that river scene? Where were the crocs and hippos when you needed them? That would have gotten the viewers interested. ;-)

On a serious note, unfortunately, commercialism and ratings are the dictators of such shows.

And when things do go wrong or some idiot is foolish enough to try something stupid and it goes awry, unfortunately the animal is the one who ends up paying the price.

I think of the money spent on making these "documentaries" and how many great conservation orgs. could benefit from these funds. What a waste!

divewop is offline  
Dec 19th, 2005, 12:02 PM
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I saw about 5 minutes of it and kept thinking, "what are they going to do if the lion decides to go after him - shoot the lion? How right is that considering he's intruding on the lion's turf?" I thought is was irresponsible.
dsquared is offline  
Dec 19th, 2005, 01:31 PM
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Africa is sort of a new fetish for me, but I have spent a ton of time researching and reading on North American Wildlife. One of the most tragic, high-profile, human-predator cases in the last decade was that of Timothy Treadwell. This ex-heroin addict thought he found salvation with the big bears in Alaska. Lucky guy survived much longer than he should have, but eventually went way over the top, thinking that he was some sort of bear-whisperer.

A bear finally killed him, and got to his star-struck girlfriend in the mix. The devastating part is that the rangers killed two bears trying to find the one that brought the couple down. This idiot though he was doing the bears a favor by showing how gentle they could be, and he ended up pushing the envelope so far that he just created one more "look what these monsters do" cover story for Outdoorsmen.

Anyway, the short answer to your question: Yes, if a Lion came after the self-aggrandizing "biologist", they would have shot it.
llbwolf is offline  
Dec 19th, 2005, 01:36 PM
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Yes, I saw a documentary recently on Timothy Treadwell and his delusional beliefs that the bears had truly accepted him.

Kavey is offline  
Dec 19th, 2005, 02:42 PM
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I have "Grizzly Man" in my netflix queue, and its scheduled to be release December 26.
thit_cho is offline  
Dec 19th, 2005, 03:31 PM
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Kavey and Michael-
Thanks for that heads up on "Grizzly Man". I just added it to my queue as well.

Not to stray too far off topic but a couple of good animal documentaries I've just recently seen are:
"The Story of the Weeping Camel"
(a happier ending)
"The Leopard Son".
I cannot find this one anywhere on DVD yet, but it came out in 1996. Narrated by Sir John Gielgud and filmed by Hugo Van Lawick over a two year period. It is quite touching.
divewop is offline  
Dec 20th, 2005, 08:08 AM
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I was rooting for the lions all the way. That guy was a total idiot, and I can just imagine how first time tourists will demand access to the wildlife due to these irresponsible idiots. Shame on Animal Planet - I sent them an email blasting their choice of programming.
Canechick is offline  
Dec 20th, 2005, 04:02 PM
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I saw a commercial for that In the Lion's Den and just the 30 sec. spot was enough to put me off.
There is just so much wrong with it. Some idiot tries to show how cool he is by sneaking to an unsafe distance from a pride of wild lions.. who the heck "greenlighted" this ridiculous thing.. and you know, Animal Planet has a really strong target demographic of children. just the sort of message you want out there for your kids.. "animals in Africa aren't really wild, they are just giant stuffed playthings!"

If offended this is what one should do.
1) Email or write Animal Planet care of their parent corp. Discover Corp.

2) Write to all of the advertisers who ran spots on the show telling them how offensive it was and that you are extremely dissapointed that they chose to purchase ad space during it's broadcast, tell them that you don't feel comfortable purchasing their products because of their poor judgement.

3) Copy on ALL correspondence to the advertisers

This should get the message across in a BIG way. (I work in the TV biz, so trust me on this one.
Thyra is offline  

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