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Hinterland Who's Who

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Hinterland Who's Who is no longer on the endangered species list. The public service vignettes known to two generations of Canadian TV viewers for their mournful music and sleep-inducing voice-overs are making a comeback, 40 years after they first introduced children to everything from black ducks to woodchucks.(by Bruce Cheadle, Canadian Press)

"Hinterland Who's Who was, for many Canadians, their first connection with wildlife," Environment Minister David Anderson said yesterday at a news conference at a federal nature museum.

"And the new public service announcements that we're launching today will help educate a new generation of Canadians on the importance of protecting wildlife and the places they live, especially species at risk."

First aired in the early 1960s to interest Canadians in wildlife conservation - and fill up empty advertising space on CBC - Hinterland Who's Who is the longest running public service series in the country.

Along the way, the ads have been famously spoofed by comedic troupes from the Royal Canadian Air Farce to Second City Television. The eye-glazing flute theme has become almost iconic.

"It became so much part of our television in the days when there were few channels that Canadian comedians took after the whole program," Anderson said in an interview.

It's been more than a decade since the last was produced. Now, thanks in part to a $100,000 bequest, eight new vignettes have been created, featuring the loon, the leatherback turtle, the polar bear and the monarch butterfly. They include 30-second and 60-second versions, the latter aimed more specifically at youngsters.

The spots include the original, often lampooned theme music, albeit with a faster tempo and a bass beat. And the benign generalities of the originals - "Chipmunks are the smallest member of the squirrel family" - have been augmented by a tougher environmental message and snappier writing.

The original spots invited viewers to contact the Canadian Wildlife Service in Ottawa for further information and according to Environment Canada, "hundreds did every week."

The new ones will direct Internet-savvy Canadians to a web site, www.hww.ca, where research material, audio and video clips and teaching tools are available, along with dozens of the original vignettes.

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