McKibbin’s Scribblin’s: Real ‘reality’ shows can frighten
Reality shows, as they’re called, have never been among my TV viewing pleasures. For one thing, they aren’t “reality” in any real sense. There are cameras, microphones, sound crews and lights that go into making a TV show. I don’t think anyone can be “real” when they’re put in that position. I know I couldn’t.
And it seems like most of the people are on those shows to make a name for themselves and cash in. Again, how real is that?
But this week I happened to catch two shows that meant “reality” to me, and a pretty scary reality, too. First, the Science Channel had a show titled “Species of Mass Destruction,” about how lionfish have gone wild in the oceans from the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic and down to South America. They’re colorful fish, but deadly. They are not native to the Atlantic Ocean, and the venomous, fast reproducing fish are aggressive eaters who eat anything and everything. With no known predators – except human beings – they can wipe out 90 percent of a reef.
They showed reefs barren of any fish except lionfish, and even divers with dead lionfish on the end of a spear could not easily interest sharks in the free food. Some sharks eventually caught on and they did go after live lionfish, since they’re immune to the poison in 18 sharp spikes on their back and elsewhere.
Humans have started to catch and eat them, too, but they reproduce at a rate of 30,000 to 40,000 eggs every few days and are sexually mature by 1 year old. It’s like running a race where you fall farther and farther behind.
About the only thing that seems to affect lionfish is cold water, around 59 degrees. But since no one is forcing them into cold waters, doesn’t look like that’s much help.
The other show was on Animal Planet: “Man-Eating Zombie Cats.” I know, sounds like another horror movie about slow moving, brain-eating house cats. Not house cats; the big cats, and they don’t move slow and have no fear of humans.
The show claimed tigers, cougars and lions get infected with canine distemper virus when they eat an infected dog and become super aggressive. I should note that many comments on the Animal Planet web site basically called the channel’s “Man-Eating” series outright lies, so there you go. But if true, it was scary stuff.
They interviewed a mountain biker and a national parks ranger, who both claimed to have been attacked and seriously injured by these big cats and said they did not provoke them in any way. Another story, set in Salida, Colo. and reported by the Denver Post and other outlets, talked about a cougar who chased a family dog into a home, killed it and trapped a mother and two young children in a room before it was tranquilized by wildlife officers and eventually euthanized.
Both shows talked about a connection with humans. In the case of the lionfish, they used DNA to trace the first ones to be found in the Atlantic to have been released by pet owners in Florida. And with the infected big cats, domesticated dogs were said to be the source of the infections in the lions, tigers and cougars around the world. Those cats had returned to their original habitats, now occupied by humans. So confrontations seem to happen everywhere.
I’ve often wondered if man really knows how to get along with other species and these two shows seemed to show a kind of reality that reinforced that notion.
They’re my kind of “reality” show.
Mike McKibbin is the editor of The Citizen Telegram.
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