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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 November 2005, 02:54 GMT
Sparrow death mars record attempt
a sparrow
Warning to sparrows: Stay outside
Not since Cock Robin has the death of a tiny bird caused such emotion.

The shooting of a sparrow on the set of a Dutch world record domino-toppling attempt sparked outrage among animal lovers and led to threats to staff.

TV firm Endemol said it felt "terrible" about the killing. The head of a bird protection agency appealed for calm.

A special website received thousands of messages of condolence, but some say the bird did not do itself any favours by knocking over 23,000 dominoes.

The bird's detour into the exhibition centre in the northern city of Leeuwarden earlier this week proved disastrous. Staff had spent weeks setting up four million dominoes.

The bird's fate was sealed when it knocked over 23,000 and organisers feared it could knock down more. An exterminator cornered the sparrow and shot it.

The backlash followed as soon as the news got out - especially as the common house sparrow was put on the endangered list in the Netherlands last year.

It is something we regret but it was a hard decision to make
Jeroen van Waardenberg,

A tribute website was set up attracting more than 24,000 hits, the Dutch animal protection agency threatened to investigate, and radio stations offered bounties for anyone who could knock down more of the dominoes before the event.

But Big Brother creators Endemol said things started to get out of hand when staff started receiving threats.

"It was something we wish would never have happened at all," Endemol spokesman Jeroen van Waardenberg told the BBC News website. "But we made a decision because the project was very important to us and is to be screened in 16 countries."

The organisers of the event say they broke their own record of 3,992,397 dominoes, set last year, by successfully felling 4,155,476.

Guinness World Records, which verifies and publishes world record data, has yet to approve the new record.

The TV show's creator, Robin Paul Weijers, said there were "mixed emotions" over the new record. "We all feel terrible abut what happened," he said.

Hans Peeters of the Dutch Bird Protection Agency appeared on Friday's television programme and said that though it was a "very sad incident" it had "been blown out of all proportion".

"I just wish we could channel all this energy that went into one dead sparrow into saving the species," he said.

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