The Discovery Channel Monday defended Sunday's "Eaten Alive" special following a barrage of Twitter outrage -- much of it mock -- after the naturalist who had indicated he might be consumed by a giant anaconda was instead only squeezed very hard.
The two-hour special -- seen by 4.1 million viewers -- had been massively promoted by TDC, and had even sparked a protest by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which had claimed the snake would suffer harm.
But the real harm may have been done only to the reputations of Discovery and the naturalist, Paul Rosolie. He was scheduled to appear on last night's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" to discuss the show.
In a statement, TDC said, in part: "Paul created this challenge to get maximum attention for one of the most beautiful and threatened parts of the world, the Amazon Rainforest and its wildlife [but] after the snake constricted Paul for over an hour and went for his head, the experiment had to be called when it became clear that Paul would be very seriously injured if he continued on. The safety of Paul, as well as the anaconda, was always our number one priority."
PETA, which had earlier blasted the show, said in a subsequent statement, "Study after study has shown that entertainment features such as this one that show humans interfering with and handling wild animals are detrimental to species conservation. Rosolie knows this. Discovery knows this. Yet they chose to contrive and air this shameful stunt for ratings anyway."
Viewers were not amused, but at least some of their tweets were amusing: "I just sat here for two hours to see a snake lick the top of this dude's head," said one.