Pointless adventures in animal harassment
Dangerous Encounters: Deadliest Snakes 6.30pm, National Geographic
IT’S a jungle in the world of wildlife documentaries as talking heads compete for ratings by annoying animals with short tempers.
One example is herpetologist Brady Barr who sets out the many alarming abilities of Russell’s ( no, not Crowe) viper and the black mamba, just two of the snakes the good doctor explains why it is not wise to irritate, as he does just that.
The premise of this program is that there are vast numbers of people whose lives will be richer for knowing all about the ‘‘ bad boys of the snake world’’, as Barr puts it.
So he starts turf fights with snakes in Africa and India in the company of local experts who do most of the catching while he does all the talking. ( Evidently the Australian species fea- tured was a snake too far away because the discussion of the inland taipan occurred in South Dakota.)
Brady’s script is straight from the standard killer- wildlife playbook. He tells us how big a risk he is taking, then lights out after the benighted reptile he is pursuing with a cry of ‘‘ snake, snake, snake’’, presumably in case the producer, make- up people and caterers out of shot thought they were looking for a moose.
He helps to poke and prod his victim into a container while regaling us with alarming factoids of the ‘‘ just one glance from this snake can kill a bullock at 1000m in the dark’’ variety.
And he keeps it up for 50 minutes, some of which are entertaining enough. The stand- off with the 4m rock python is impressive, although the shots of it regurgitating its last meal in an attempt to slim down and escape may not be to everyone’s taste.
Barr also has a frank exchange with a king cobra, which growls when annoyed, making an excellent case for leaving it alone. But a few minutes’ footage of snakes being ensnared does not a documentary make. So, to pad out the program Barr rates the reptiles on five attributes, presumably to assist people in a position to select the one that bites them.
Some of the criteria seem sensible: size, volume and toxicity of venom, and number of human victims. However, Barr also includes personality, perhaps to distinguish between brooding reptiles and the jolly ones that bite with a smile, but it does seem a silly way to distinguish several sorts of snakes that can all kill you if they feel inclined. Still, he’s the herpetologist. But given the chance of running into any of these reptiles anywhere in settled Australia is less than zero it is hard to see a point to the program. It’s silly as a cut snake, really.
Licence to coil: Brady Barr, right, having some one- on- one time with a rock python