“Dancing With the Stars,” Bindi Irwin, and a terrified anaconda
FYI…Here is a letter I sent to Rob Wade, Executive Producer, Dancing With the Stars
Dear Mr. Wade,
As an Emmy-winning wildlife documentary maker and director of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking, I was disappointed that Dancing With the Stars aired a segment featuring contestant Bindi Irwin bringing a live anaconda to dance practice.
Television productions, bright lights, and excessive handling are stressful and terrifying for wild animals. Snakes in particular have keen senses and are distressed by excessive noise and vibrations.
Featuring wild animals on your show is also detrimental to wildlife conservation efforts, because people who see these dangerous wild animals as “pets” are sometimes inspired to purchase them, keeping them in completely unnatural conditions before the animals inevitably become too unmanageable and dangerous to handle and often end up relegated to shoddy roadside zoos, decrepit backyards, or basement cages. True wildlife experts frown on the idea of carting wild animals around to display them on TV.
Many of the exhibitors who provide animals for TV productions have deplorable records of violating federal animal welfare laws; recent citations include failing to provide adequate veterinary care, failing to provide safe enclosures for animals, leaving enclosures covered in animals’ waste, and locking animals in barren cages for up to 18 hours a day.
In light of this information, I hope that Dancing With the Stars will pledge never to feature live wild animals in the future. I would be happy to meet with you or someone from your team to discuss this issue further. Thank you for your consideration.
Professor Chris Palmer
Author of Confessions of a Wildlife Filmmaker (Bluefield Publishing, 2015)
and Shooting in the Wild (Sierra Club Books, 2010)
Distinguished Film Producer in Residence
Director, Center for Environmental Filmmaking environmentalfilm.org
American University School of Communication
President, One World One Ocean Foundation oneworldoneoceanfoundation.org