After writing about “Snuffy the Seal” – the Discovery Channel’s tease for its annual Shark Week – yesterday, I feel the need to explain myself a little further. Not because I’m ashamed of laughing hysterically over the commercial, which I maintain was very well done, but because there’s an added depth (or lack of originality, depending on your perspective) to the fictitious account.
“Snuffy the Seal” might be completely made up. But the larger drama of rescuing sea critters, nurturing them back to health and then releasing them into the wild, only for them to get devoured by other sea critters on camera?
That kind of thing does happen, though maybe – maybe – not in such dramatic fashion.
It turns out that, according to Snopes, it’s an urban legend that do-gooders spent $160,000 after the Exon Valdez oil spill to rehabilitate two oiled-up sea otters, which then became a killer whale’s snack in front of a horrified audience.
(Let me take a second to clarify. It’s an urban legend that the oiled-up sea otters were gobbled up on camera. They did, however, cost $80,000 each to revive.)
However, take the case of “Happy Feet,” a penguin rescued in New Zealand in 2011 that was taken in by a local zoo and given surgery to remove the pounds of sand he’d consumed. They released him complete with a tracker to monitor his progress, but lost the signal only a week later either because the device fell off of him… or because he was eaten.
Then there was Dunham, a bottlenose dolphin that was taken in after suffering from pneumonia, shark bites and damage from what might have been a fishing line. His rescuers tagged him, released him and followed him out into the Tampa Bay waters for a few hours… then watched him sustain several shark bites, one from an eight or nine-foot tiger shark.
Dunham didn’t survive.
That was in 2009. And according to the same article about Dunham the dolphin, there was a case in California a few years prior where an injured seal was lovingly nurtured back to health. Donors, volunteers and well-wishers gathered to see the recovered mammal off, only to immediately watch it get eaten by a killer whale.
I could not, however, verify that last one from a secondary source.
But at least the first two examples illustrate something very important that the “Snuffy the Seal” commercial went on to capture.
I can best sum it up this way: We’re not God.