In 2014, it's probably safe to say that almost no one expects reality TV to be real in the realest sense. But, given recent reports from Mother Jones and Animal Planet's Call of the Wildman, it's clear that few of us expected it to be this dastardly.
Centered around following the antics of Ernie "Turtleman" Brown, Jr., Call of the Wildman has been accused of numerous counts of animal abuse following a seven-month Mother Jones investigation. What emerges from the magazine's report is a picture of exploitation, cruelty, and law-breaking miles away from how they portray Turtleman on the hit show.
First and foremost, there are the dead raccoons. Three orphaned ones made their way to the Kentucky Wildlife Center in 2012 following filming an episode for Call of the Wildman, and they were very near dead:
"By the time three orphaned raccoons arrived for emergency care at the Kentucky Wildlife Center in April 2012, 'they were emaciated,' says Karen Bailey, who runs the nonprofit rehab clinic set in the sunny thoroughbred country just outside of Georgetown, in central Kentucky. 'They were almost dead.'
...These weren't just any raccoons. They were the stars of one of the highest-rating episodes of Call of the Wildman, the hit Animal Planet reality TV show.
When cubs are in such bad shape, Bailey says, 'It's a race against time.' The animals were incubated and intubated, fed fluids and antibiotics. As a last-ditch effort, Bailey administered blood plasma and managed to save two of the raccoons—'a miracle.'"
And then, of course, there was the drugged zebra that crewmembers say was "almost unusable." Animal Planet, for their part, says the animal was drugged behind their back:
"Production sources told me that the zebra seemed woozy during filming; it could barely walk. Animal Planet and Sharp obtained the zebra from the Franklin Drive Thru Safari, an animal park run by a businessman named Jason Clay. In a phone interview, Clay confirmed that he supplied the zebra, but denied using sedatives. Clay is licensed under the federal regulations for animal exhibitors, which specify that 'drugs, such as tranquilizers, shall not be used to facilitate, allow, or provide for public handling of the animals,' and that handling of animals should not cause trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort.
Despite Clay's denial, Animal Planet and Sharp confirmed to Mother Jones that the zebra was drugged before filming, but they say it happened behind their backs. However, Jamie and other sources say that the crew was aware of the zebra's sedation during filming, especially since the animal nearly fell over several times. 'I heard about the zebra being almost unusable,' says another source."
Plus, it would appear that the show has employees plant animals for rescue, which they obtain from trappers and wildlife refuges. Almost nothing is real:
"Three sources involved with the show confirmed that producers typically procure animals from farms or trappers and put them in fake rescue situations, on sets tailored to specification.
Sharp producers even go so far as to make fake animal droppings using Nutella, Snickers bars, and rice.
'It was part of my job to call around people to trap animals at the direction of Sharp,' says Jamie, who worked on the show. (Jamie's name has been changed. Sharp Entertainment requires many employees and participants to sign confidentiality agreements that call for as much as $1 million in damages if breached.) 'It's 100 percent fake,' said a second production source."
There is much, much more, and the full report is available here. But, safe to say, you might want to tune the Turtleman out for a while.