“Canned hunts” in Las Perlas questioned

The Panama-based reality TV series, “The Island with Bear Grylls,” has been the focus of recent controversy

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On-the-Water by Ilene Little

According to eyewitnesses, a Shine TV film crew in Las Perlas has been transporting and releasing, on San Telmo and Gibraleón islands, caimans and pigs to increase the likelihood of show participants being able to obtain a kill.

“The Island with Bear Grylls” is a survival skills reality television series that enjoyed its first season in May 2014. The narrator and host, Bear Grylls, is a famous British adventurer, writer and presenter. The show is presented as a challenge for modern men and women to see if they can survive when marooned on a Pacific Island armed only with minimal tools and their own initiatives.

The filming of survival shows in Las Perlas is a big tourist attraction and enjoys wide online viewership. Here’s the rub: What about the ethics of a “canned hunt,” the hunting of animals planted in an area for the express purpose of making kills more likely? Also, what about consequences to the ecosystem of releasing non-indigenous animals on an island?

Animal lovers, nature lovers and scientists object.

The Panama-based reality TV series, “The Island with Bear Grylls,” has been the focus of recent controversy

The Panama-based reality TV series, “The Island with Bear Grylls,” has been the focus of recent controversy.

Though many residents on Contadora may object to these questionable practices, the island is making money from the tourism that is being generated because of the filming of these types of programs. Anne Gordon de Barrigon of Whale Watching Panama has a degree in Biology and Animal Behavior. She says, “I have no problem with the premise of the show. Just don’t bring any captive animals to the islands.”

It is not the first time Bear Grylls has been accused of planting stage-props and seeding the islands with non-indigenous animals as part of the filming production.

An article dated May 16, 2014 from The Mirror Online (Mirror.co.uk) reports “Channel 4 was accused of fakery last night after it emerged producers set up a water supply and let loose two crocodiles on survival show ‘The Island with Bear Grylls.’”

In a subsequent story in The Mirror, Grylls denied the claims of fakery were true, explaining that, “caiman crocodiles were added to the island so that if the men were to kill them, the natural eco system would not be damaged.”

There are only three logical consequences of releasing non-indigenous wildlife on an island for a canned hunt; either the animals are killed, recaptured unharmed, or they escape. If they escape into the environment then the natural eco-system would be altered. The issue has come to the attention of the National Environmental Authority of Panama (Ministerio de Ambiente, or ANAM), after the agency received eyewitness reports backing up these claims.

“Caimans need freshwater to survive! And the tiny islands of Las Perlas don’t have that,” explained a well-known and published Panamanian naturalist and tourism expert.

According to Dr. Eric E. Flores, Chief of Wildlife and Biodiversity at ANAM, “This agency issued a permit to PTWild Exotics (the show’s animal handlers) to exhibit some animals last year but with restrictions.” According to Flores, those restrictions stated the company had approval to transport caimans and agoutis. No approval was given for them to kill any transported animals.”

Said Flores, “ANAM issued the company a permit covering specific things. If they are not compliant, then we are open to receive any formal complaints.”

ANAM is currently contacting the television production company to follow up on the report made by the witness. If somebody feels that something wrong has gone on, please call ANAM at Tel. (507) 500-0877.


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