London 9 April: A prominent zoologist says that Sir David Attenborough’s latest wildlife show is misleading the public about walrus deaths in the Arctic.
Over the weekend, viewers were shocked by footage of walruses plunging to their deaths from sea cliffs. In his narration, Sir David said that this was the result of declining sea-ice levels caused by global warming. This was said to have forced the animals on shore, where their poor eyesight meant that they couldn’t perceive the danger of falling.
According to Canadian zoologist Dr Susan Crockford, this explanation is laughably wrong:
“We have records of walrus haulouts that are nearly a century old, including some from this part of the Arctic. The idea that walruses are being driven on shore by sea-ice decline is entirely incorrect. They have always done so. In fact there are reports of walruses falling over cliffs from long before the age of global warming too. Sir David’s story about climate change appears to be just that – a fable.”
Moreover, it appears that Sir David’s story has other problems too. According to Crockford, the Netflix footage seems to have come from a well-documented incident in October 2017, when polar bears in the Russia village of Ryrkaipyi drove dozens of walruses over a cliff and then feasted on the corpses.
While the documentary makers have admitted that the film was shot in Russia in the autumn of 2017 and that polar bears were close by at the time, they have so far refused to confirm that the event they used in the documentary is the same as the reported polar bear attack in Ryrkaipyi. Instead, they are blaming climate change for the incident.
“Our Planet is a thinly veiled fundraiser for WWF, and it seriously misleads the public” says Crockford. “We need to ask who knew the truth, and when”.