In just 24 hours, one man's online petition convinced the National Geographic Channel to rethink its plans to include a big-game hunter on a new show set to debut this fall.
Conservationist Tim Martell, 42, says a lifetime of watching National Geographic specials inspired him to pursue a career dedicated to preserving animals and their ecosystems. So he was shocked to discover that a new show about survivalists in the Alaskan wilderness would feature "Hardcore Huntress" Melissa Bachman, a well-known hunter who specializes in tracking and killing big game.
"I'm not against all forms of hunting. I'm primarily against trophy hunters," Martell told Yahoo News in a phone interview on Friday. "I believe that it's wasteful. It's damaging to the ecosystem. To kill for a thrill or just a photograph is just unnecessary."
Martell, who is a certified Florida Master Naturalist, was contacted by some of his friends who encouraged him to launch a petition against Bachman's involvement on the show. However, when Martell first contacted National Geographic via email, he says he received a "generic" response informing him that the network planned to move forward with Bachman's involvement.
But less than 24 hours later, Martell's Change.org petition has received more than 13,000 signatures and has gone viral on social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. Martell then received another email from National Geographic, this time informing him that they had changed their minds about Bachman's involvement.
A statement released by the National Geographic Channel reads:
"The National Geographic Channel has carefully considered the public discussion of our series on surviving the wilds of Alaska currently in production and premiering sometime next year. Upon further reflection we plan to eliminate one of the survivalists from the ensemble cast, Melissa Bachman. Hunting is not the focus of the show, and we regret the misinformation that has clouded what we hope will be an exciting adventure series set in the incredible Alaskan landscape."
This is not Martell's first high-profile online protest. In December 2011, he launched a Facebook campaign against Rosie O'Donnell after she posted pictures of herself standing next to a hammerhead shark she had captured during a fishing trip. Nonetheless, Martell says he was genuinely surprised at not only the online response but also the response from the network itself.
"I really didn't think that it was going to end in a victory as quickly as it did," Martell said. "Every corporation makes errors sometimes and National Geographic is no different. And when a company loses its moral compass it's up to as us fans and consumers to remind them of their original mission statement."