Monkey business and gorilla marketing

Czech voyeurs who have grown weary of watching their fellow citizens monkey around in the prime-time reality TV shows VyVoleni (The Selected) and Big Brother these past weeks will soon be able to sneak a peak at the private life of another group of primates.

The Prague Zoo has announced that as of this Monday, live Web casts of one male gorilla, two females and a youngster will be shown on a public radio Internet site. Uncut scenes from the daily life of the apes will also be screened on public television. "It is a meaningful alternative to "people" reality shows," the zoo said in a statement.

The Prague Zoo was hit hard by the summer floods of 2002. Dozens of animals perished, and the zoo has since embarked on numerous creative campaigns to boost attendance and raise funds. There have been gorillas in Prague since 1963, whereas the first reality TV shows only appeared on the scene this year.

In both VyVoleni and Big Brother -- which do much to dispel remnants of the myth of the Czechs as nation of intellectuals - viewers get to vote on whom to boot out of the tribe. My choice would be 'D' - all of the above.

I imagine most people feel far sorrier for the great apes penned up in the zoo than their cousins with oposable thumbs, who are now on exhibit 24-hours a day, purely of their own volition. Besides, whoever survives the VyVoleni selection process will walk away with some 11 million crowns in prize money, enough to buy an apartment house in a posh Prague neighbourhood.

Viewers of the Prague zoo reality show too will be asked to call in their vote for their favourite primate. The money raised from SMSes - mobile phone text messages - will be directed towards an existing zoo project to help save gorillas in their natural environment, most likely Cameroon, in West Africa.

The prize for the most popular gorilla will be 12 melons, a pun on the Czech slang substitution of melon for six digits numbers, when talking about large sums of cash, as in, "Ty jo, if Vladko wins VyVoleni, he'll get 11 melounu".

Human nature being what it is, my guess is that the most popular gorilla will prove to be little Moya, the first ever gorilla born in this country. Moya's name means "The First" in Swahili. The youngster's sex, as dedicated Radio Prague listeners will remember, has yet to be determined; it seems Moya is either a bit lacking in the King-of-the-Jungle department or has gotten into the medicine cabinet of the former East German women's weightlifting team.

Tune in next week....