The Discovery Channel (their reputation is so bad, you’re probably already booing) has a ‘reality’ show called Venom Hunters. It is about teams of courageous reptile experts who make a living — and save lives — by capturing rare and deadly venomous animals in the wild, and milking them of toxins for use in antivenoms. Sounds cool, doesn’t it? It was probably snapped right up by the channel when the premise was presented to them.
Only a few problems with it, though: they’re mostly not experts, that’s not how venom is collected, nobody makes a living off this fictitious profession, it’s unlikely that any of the venom is being used for its stated purpose, and at least some of the animal captures are staged, using captive snakes.
Over on Science Sushi, you can read a very detailed exposé of the phony staff, the bogus stories, and their potentially illegal activities. It’s as phony as that mermaid ‘documentary’.
Man, the Discovery Channel must really hate Christie Wilcox. She’s filleting them.
I actually enjoyed the mermaid documentary. I thought it was rather well done. I’d like to see that done with other myths as well, like the dinosaurs in the Congo or something.
Do they talk about this guy?
Gee, Discovery Channels presents a “reality” show with the reality being the shows are totally scripted. The only surprise about this one is that it wasn’t filmed in Alaska. No snakes, I guess.
PZ Myers says
That wouldn’t stop them. They filmed in Australia at a time of year when they wouldn’t find any snakes.
When I was a kid we would sometimes go to Silver Springs, Florida to take the glass-bottom boat ride, look at the monkeys, and so forth. One thing we only did once: visit the Ross Allen Reptile Institute part. They had a lot of snakes, plus other reptiles and did a demo of milking a snake and making an alligator go sleep by rubbing it’s stomach. We only did it once because my mother was so terrified of snakes should couldn’t even watch a movie showing one. Apparently something to do with stepping on one when she was young.
Anyway, it seems Allen was legitimate, even though part of his operation was a tourist attraction. It probably helped pay the bills.
johnson catman says
Your link to “illegal activities” goes to the same part ii post as the “bogus stories” one.
And regarding the Discovery Channel, don’t forget Cody Lundin’s lawsuit against them regarding “Dual Survival”. (Lawsuit filed May 20, so at this point nothing more than the complaint.)
Wow. That was a kick in the head. Soon as I saw your comment I had to go check my dads slides and yep. I was at the Florida Serpentarium in September 1971. And Dr. Allen was milking the snakes.
He got bit by some little viper he was going to milk. This young lady standing right in front of my brother saw him get struck. She just keeled over backwards. My brother took a quick step to the side so he wouldn’t obstruct her fall to the ground. We still give him shit about that 45 years later.
Dr. Allen had been bit so many times that for a lot of them he didn’t take antivenom. We were talking to him after the milking demo (he milked a whole bunch when we were there) and everybody just stared at his finger. It was one of the little fingers but I forget which hand. It was swollen pretty huge while we were talking to him.
The last snake he milked was a King Cobra. There was a grassy area with a cement sidewalk around it. At the widest the lawn was maybe 20 feet. No fence. No nothing between the grass and the crowd on the sidewalk. They just brought a big crate out and dumped this King Cobra in the grass. Then he caught it and milked it.
And they had a movie star. One of their iguanas had spikes or something affixed to it’s back and it was one of the dinosaurs in 1,000,000 years BC…
Ah man. Thanks for bringing all those memories back!
I still weep whenever I hear the old ‘Wild Discovery’ theme music. RIP, old friend.
Sounds like even if it had been legit, the show was a ripoff of NatGeo Wild’s Snake City. Which at least seemed like it was fairly legit.
Well, so much for the Discovery’ Channel’s alleged drive to stop being so sensational and focus more on real science.
There”s a show called Venom Hunters and it doesn’t feature Spiderman? Whatta rip.
Discovery’s unscripted programming is sort of under a cloud at the moment, there are several lawsuits going back and forth with suppliers (producers) and all kinds of allegations. The mood is that a lot of reality programming is getting pulled and reality TV is not where you want to be right now– the profit margins were never great to begin with, but online is totally killing their ad revenue to the extent that only scripted programming can actually charge the rates necessary to pay for itself. Long term cable channels will be consolidating.
And of course a lot of it was totally a sham to begin with. The saga of Duck Dynasty, shot on a set, with actors in consume, and elaborate storylines, is instructive.
Just posting the corrected link to Part 3 of the series, and also to Part 4, which wasn’t up when the above was first posted.