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I’m an endangered species, get me out of here!

They’re cute, they’re cuddly, and now they’re good fodder for reality TV programming. Yup, that’s right; no longer are we restricted to seeing z-list celebrities boring us to death all day long in the _Big Brother_ house, now we can see z-list celebrities making a pitch to save their endangered species of choice.

We’re talking of course of the latest incarnation of the reality TV show: _Extinct_, recently broadcast on Britain’s ITV channel and sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The programme paired up a range of celebrities with what the WWF calls ‘charismatic species’, such as the Giant Panda or the Polar Bear. Viewers were then asked to phone or text in and vote for which one of the eight species should be ‘saved’. In WWF’s defence, the ‘winner’ only received 50 per cent of all the money raised during the programme (generated through special phone charges), with the other ‘runner-ups’ receiving the remaining 50 per cent divided equally between them. This is of course minus the ITV cut (rumours indicate this was around 40 per cent of the proceeds), and minus WWF’s admin and production costs. To date, no information has been revealed about how much in total was raised from the programme, with the message boards on ITV’s website filled with furious complaints about the lack of transparency. Many viewers were also furious at the programme’s presentation of the solution for endangered species as being one of ‘survival of the cutest’. This is of course bad news for Madagascar’s Aye-Aye which is thought by locals to be so ugly it is often beaten to death on sight.

*Seriously* however was inspired by some of the more substantive critiques we came across on the message boards from viewers who clearly saw through the WWF/ ITV cynical marketing ploy for the sham it was. One ‘Nicola’ lambasted the programme by stating: ‘The turtles should have won ’cause Dermot O’Leary is a hottie. Boooooo!!! Save the turtles!’

Clearly there is hope for the world’s species after all.

The ‘winner’ was none other than the Bengal Tiger, narrowly beating out the Panda, whose lacklustre performance during the sex scene had left people clearly unimpressed.

New Internationalist issue 397 magazine cover This article is from the January-February 2007 issue of New Internationalist.
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