CRAIG BROWN: I’m A Celebrity… get me out of the zoo and on telly!
Last week, I touched on the extraordinary phenomenon of what one observer has described as the ‘toxic’ relations between many of the animals at London Zoo.
The various combatants had then launched PR drives in order to win over the hearts and minds of the general public.
At the start of this year, the atmosphere between the various feuding camps grew even more fraught. In February, a white mouse identified only by his first name — Jeff — complained to the zoo’s head of AR (Animal Resources) about ‘some very serious bullying’, after spotting an anaconda — coincidentally called Anna Conder — swallowing one of his colleagues.
In turn, Msssss Conder hired senior executives at the prestigious Sunshine Public Relations company, charging them with restoring her good name.
Sunshine PR immediately issued their first PR statement on her behalf.
‘Msssss Conder has always treated mice with the utmost respect, and would never dream of eating them, unless, of course, she could find nothing better.’
A koala bear called Kit has appeared on Blue Peter, The One Show and Animal Hospital, though he recently refused to appear on This Morning with Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, in protest against their performance at HM the Queen’s Lying-In-State
This statement was judged an only partial success. Insiders say that ‘after several heated phone calls’, Sunshine PR agreed to promote a series of image-boosting public events on her behalf.
Perhaps their greatest coup was to secure the 15-metre snake a position on Strictly Come Dancing — the first carnivorous reptile to appear on the show since Piers Morgan in 2017.
Paired with professional dancer Giovanni Campona, Anna Conder was voted out in the first round, after the judges complained that her cha-cha-cha ‘never quite got off the ground’.
Nevertheless, viewers seem to have been taken by her pluck. Many were moved to tears by her back story, in which she described how her grandmother had been transformed into top-of-the-range designer handbags, and was now on display in high-end boutiques around the world.
Within weeks, Anna became one of the zoo’s top attractions. Jeff the Mouse, on the other hand, was never seen again, though he was reportedly last seen wandering ‘in a carefree manner’ towards the owl sanctuary.
In another furore, leading bats had become increasingly upset by sections of the media describing them as ‘blind’ and ‘just hanging about or flying round and round in circles’.
In a misguided attempt to rectify their faltering public image, the Bat Collective nominated one of their number, Barry, to appear on TV’s top-rated I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! alongside a celebrity chef, an actor on Emmerdale and a former bass player with Showaddywaddy.
But Barry’s first appearance on the show was also to be his last: viewers glimpsed him for only 35 seconds before he was swallowed in a single gulp in a Bush Tucker Challenge by former England rugby player James Haskell.
In February, a white mouse identified only by his first name — Jeff — complained to the zoo’s head of AR (Animal Resources) about ‘some very serious bullying’, after spotting an anaconda — coincidentally called Anna Conder — swallowing one of his colleagues
‘If we had known that was going to happen, we would have entered him for The Great British Bake Off instead,’ insists a bat colleague, who wishes to remain anonymous. ‘Barry would have looked great as the filling in a vanilla sponge.’
Other creatures at London Zoo have experienced more luck in boosting their public profiles.
A koala bear called Kit has appeared on Blue Peter, The One Show and Animal Hospital, though he recently refused to appear on This Morning with Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, in protest against their performance at HM the Queen’s Lying-In-State.
But, sadly, in the animal world popularity with the general public comes at a cost — and the cost is envy.
‘That koala has no particular talents. He can’t swim or run, and has nothing to say for himself.
‘But he’s on the television all the time.
‘Meanwhile, here’s little me, trying countless times to appear on television and always being met with refusals,’ sighs a warthog in a neighbouring cage.
‘These days, it’s all about who you know. I mean, that koala’s not even nice.
‘With him, it’s all cuddles and smiles on camera, but the minute the spotlight’s off him, he can be very snappy. Very snappy indeed.’
Last month, the warthog fired his long-standing Communications Secretary, a hawk, and replaced him with a dove called Amelia, known for her more softly-softly approach.
Two weeks later, the warthog was photographed laughing and joking on the red carpet at the Brit awards, so the new strategy appears to be working.
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