Two of the biggest names in wildlife television are at the centre of a row after the ‘sacking’ of an 11-year-old boy by a conservation charity.
Finlay Pringle criticised celebrity survival expert Bear Grylls for keeping sharks in tanks at his adventure park, losing him his ‘Shark Ambassador’ role for being too outspoken.
He had told Grylls – who also holds the role of Chief Scout: “You suck” and “Worst Chief Scout Ever”.
BBC Springwatch presenter Chris Packham leapt to the defence of the Ullapool schoolboy, praising him for standing up for his beliefs.
Packham said: “Finlay’s courage to stand up for what he believes in is a joy in an age where most people are scared to say boo to a goose.
“Finlay is the best ambassador for sharks I’ve ever met.
“This group of fish are being mercilessly killed in their millions and as keystone predators this will have far-reaching and profound impacts on the ocean ecosystem.”
Earlier this year, Finlay was delighted when the international Sharks4Kids charity chose him as one of the UK’s junior Shark Ambassadors in recognition of his marine conservation efforts.
But when he went online to express his views about The Bear Grylls Adventure ‘dive experience’, his comments on Facebook led to Sharks4Kids stripping him of the role.
His parents received an angry email saying Finlay could no longer represent it because his online comments conflicted with its not-for-profit status, which prevents it lobbying or petitioning.
Founder and president Jillian Morris wrote: ‘We do NOT condone negative campaigns and legally cannot be affiliated with this style of online slander.”
But the critics’ views are not shared by Packham.
The presenter, who also called Finlay up on stage to a standing ovation at a London conservation event, added: “Finlay is inspirational and I hope other youngsters respond to his remarkable strength of character and speak out about all the issues which they have concerns about, too.”
Finlay remains adamant, saying: “It was time to name and shame over this shark experience.”
He has since received an email from Grylls’s representatives, inviting him to the The Bear Grylls Adventure.
A Sharks4Kids spokesman said: ‘We support Finlay in his passion to speak up for what he believes. But with our status, we cannot lobby, petition or participate in activism.”