‘Our Planet’ film crew is still lying about walrus cliff deaths: here’s how we know

Reposted from Polar Bear Science

Posted on April 14, 2019 | Comments Off on ‘Our Planet’ film crew is still lying about walrus cliff deaths: here’s how we know

Last week, I called “contrived nonsense” on the claim by David Attenborough and the production crew of Netflix’s ‘Our Planet’ that the walruses they showed falling to their deaths were victims of global warming. After unbelieveable media attention since then, newly-revealed details only solidify my assertion. Something stinks, and it’s not just the bad acting of director Sophie Lanfear in the ‘Behind the Scenes‘ trailer as she delivers her WWF-approved message: “This is the sad reality of climate change”.

walruses2-1024x683_usgs

Despite many statements to the press, the film crew have steadfastly refused to reveal precisely where and when they filmed the walrus deaths shown in this film in relation to the walrus deaths initiated by polar bears reported by The Siberian Times in the fall of 2017.

I can only conclude, therefore, that the two incidents are indeed essentially one and the same: that the filmmakers, probably alerted by resident WWF employees at Ryrkaipiy, moved in after polar bears caused hundreds of walrus to fall to their deaths. The crew then captured on film the last few falls over the cliff as the walrus herd moved away from the haulout.

The lie being told by Attenborough and the film crew is that 200-300 walruses fell during the time they were filming, while in fact they filmed only a few: polar bears were responsible for the majority of the carcasses shown on the beach below the cliff. This is, of course, in addition to the bigger lie that lack of sea ice is to blame for walrus herds being onshore in the first place.

See my point-by-point analysis below and make up your own mind.

Background

Walruses dying in large numbers due to falls from cliff tops is not a new phenomenon associated exclusively with reduced sea ice and neither are enormous land haulouts of walrus mothers and calves. Historical documents recorded prior to the decline of sea ice prove this is true (Crockford 2014 and references therein; Fischbach et al. 2016; Lowry 1985) and the US government does not consider them ‘threatened’ with extinction (MacCracken et al. 2017; US Fish & Wildlife 2017a,b).

As I’ve noted previously, there were disturbing similarities between the event they filmed in 2017 somewhere in “eastern Siberia” and one reported by The Siberian Times at Cape Kozhevnikov near the village of Ryrkaipiy (see photo below) sometime in early to mid-September 2017 in which several dozen polar bears spooked a small herd of about 5,000 walruses so badly that hundreds fell off the cliff to their deaths.

Walrus inside_cape_kozhevnikov_Siberian Times

Walrus haulout at Cape Kozhevnikov near the village of Ryrkaipiy.

Locations mentioned in this post:

Chukotka walrus haulouts map with inset

What we know

Details on these points in the footnotes:

  • The location of the incident where hundreds of walrus fell to their deaths after a herd of about 5,000 walrus was spooked by polar bears, as reported in The Siberian Times, was Cape Kozhevnikov near the village of Ryrkaipiy in Chukotka. A similar incident involving polar bears and somewhat fewer walrus occurred in 2011 (see footnote 1). In 2007, a herd of about 40,000 walrus spent time here in the early fall and left behind an unknown number of dead that attracted polar bears, see WWF account here (pdf here).
  • The location of the Netflix cliff shoot was Cape Kozhevnikov near the village of Ryrkaipiy and the date was 19 September 2017, see footnote 2.
  • According to tweets made by cameraman Jamie McPherson, the crew of ‘Our Planet’ arrived in Chukotka to film walrus on 14 September 2017 and left on 26 October 2017.
  • The location in the ‘Our Planet’ film of a beach where more than 100,000 walrus were hauled out was not Cape Kozhevnikov near the village of Ryrkaipiy, see footnote 3:  it may have been Cape Serdtse-Kamen, several hundred km east of Cape Kozhevnikov (map above), a known haulout area for super-herds of >100,000 walrus, see footnote 1.
  • I was not the only scientist to question the filmmakers explanation of what was happening on the cliff: Lori Quakenbush from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game also found the films claims were scientifically dubious, see footnote 3.
  • Polar bears were in the area at the time the film footage was being shot, as ‘Our Planet’ director Sophie Lanfear has admitted.
  • Low-altitude aerial footage shown in the film and the “Behind the Scenes” trailer (see footnote 4, at about 1:06) suggests the crew were using drones during the filming, which may have further aggitated the walrus massed at the top of the cliff while the rest of the herd was preparing to depart the haulout.
  • Walrus have poor eyesight and the calls of walrus in the water as they left the haulout below may have caused those at the top of the cliff to move towards the edge where a misstep would have been fatal, even without being frightened.
  • ‘Our Planet’ director Sophie Lanfear clarified in the ‘Behind the Scenes‘ trailer (see footnote 4) that the walruses they filmed were falling off the cliff because the herd was leaving the haulout.
  • The polar bear initiated event reported after the fact in The Siberian Times at 19 October 2017 must have happened in early to mid-September, in any case before 19 September when the film footage was shot as the herd was moving out.
  • Critically, “several hundred” walruses were stated to have fallen to their deaths during the polar bear initiated carnage at Cape Kozhevnikov in September 2017.
  • ‘Hundreds of walruses’ were also claimed to have fallen to their deaths during filming of the ‘Our Planet’ sequence (quote from Attenborough in the film).
  • There’s probably 200-300 dead walrus on like a half mile stretch of beach here” [shown at the bottom of the cliff, after the crew shot the falling walruses] said cameraman Jamie McPherson in the ‘Behind the Scenes‘ trailer, see footnote 4.
  • If there were two separate events of 200-300 walruses falling off that cliff (only one of which involved bears), McPherson should have recorded almost 600 carcasses on the beach below the cliff as the herd left the haulout. But he did not.
Conclusion

We know the ‘Our Planet’ film crew were in Chukotka by mid-September, perhaps at Cape Serdtse-Kamen, preparing to film a huge walrus haulout. I suggest that after polar bears frightened 200-300 walruses over the cliff to their deaths at Cape Kozhevnikov in early to mid-September, the film crew were alerted by WWF employees stationed at  Ryrkaipiy about the incident.

The film crew temporarily moved to Cape Kozhevnikov and proceded to shoot footage of perhaps several dozen more walruses falling of the cliff onto the 200-300 carcasses already present at the bottom, as the herd prepared to move off due to the disturbance. The number of falling walrus may have been exacerbated by the use of drones and/or human activity around the haulout, but seem mostly to have been missteps taken by aggitated animals eager to join their fellows in the water. I suggest further that polar bears trying to feed on the carcasses were temporarily chased away by the WWF polar bear patrol before the crew began filming, which is why they had people watching to alert them should the bears return.

The lie being told by Attenborough and the film crew is that 200-300 walruses fell during the time they were filming, while in fact they filmed only a few: polar bears were responsible for the majority of the carcasses on the beach below the cliff. This is, of course, in addition to the bigger lie that lack of sea ice is to blame for walrus herds being onshore in the first place.

The crew and WWF can show I’m wrong by providing evidence of where the Netflix film footage was shot, where the haulout of >100,000 walrus was located, and the date in 2017 when the polar bear initiated walrus deaths at Cape Kozhevnikov occurred. If so, I will amend this post accordingly.

Footnotes

1. From ‘Pacific walrus coastal haulout database, 1852-2016 (see also Fischbach et al. 2016):

Cape Schmidt [Ryrkaipii; Ryrkaipiy; Mys Shmidta; Cape Kozhevnikov; Utios Kozhevnikov], with records of  ‘at least 10,000, less than 100,000’ walrus in haulouts

Haulout Description: Rocky slopes and beach on eastern both sides of the Utios Kozhevnikov cliffs and adjoining spit 700 meters north of the settlement of Ryrkaipii. “Utios Kozhevnikov” is official name from Russian geographical maps and is part of Cape Schmidt. Another settlement, Cape Schmidt, lies 4 km to the east of this haulout. “Ryrkaipiy” means the “limit of walrus moving” in the Chukchi language.

Historical Use: Arsen’ev (1927) noted Cape Schmidt as a large haulout in the end of 19th century or begin of the 20th century. During the early 1930’s a large urban settlement was built near the site of the haulout, which may have contributed to the lack of observed haulout use until Kavry and others (2008) note the formation of a large haulout of more 40,000 walruses in September of 2007 (Kochnev 2012). Thereafter (2007 -2014), regular use has been reported, though not every year, with counts approaching 50,000 (Semenova and others 2010, Kochnev 2012, Pereverzev and Kochnev 2012, Maksim Deminov written communication and photograph 2014).

The haulout has been used by both adult males and by females and young, with the females and young replacing the adult males on the haulout as the season progresses from August through October (Semenova and others 2010, Pereverzev and Kochnev 2012). Overall, the age-sex composition is about 10% male, similar to the Wrangel Island haulouts. During the 2011 haulout large number of walruses of calves of the year and older age classes of both sexes were found dead (n = 123), and the deaths were attributed to both trampling and falls down steep rocking slopes, with polar bears playing a role (monrintoing [sic] support provided by TINRO and ChukotTINRO, Pereverzev and Kochnev 2012, Kochnev 2012).

Cape Serdtse-Kamen: with records of ‘more than 100,000’ walrus in haulouts [this is the only one in the database]

Haulout Description: Prominent cape Location 110 km northwest of the Bering Strait. Map location is center of haulout by mouth of river, 5 km southwest from the cape. During peak usage, the haulout extends over approximately 30 km of coastline from the cape to the southeast (Kochnev 2010b).

Historical Use: Use prior to 1927 is noted by Arsen’ev (1927). Nikulin (1941) noted use by walruses in 1937. Regularly use by walruses in ice-free autumns during all of the 20th Century up to the present (Belopl’skii 1939, Grachev and Mymrin, 1991; Zheleznov-Chukotsky and others, 2003; Kochnev, 2010b, unpublished data).

Use was noted during the 1960, 1964, 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990 aerial surveys (Fedoseev, 1966; Gol’tsev, 1968; Fedoseev, 1981; Estes and Gol’tsev, 1984; Fedoseev, Razlivalov, 1986; Gilbert and others 1992). In early October of 1975 Estes and Gol’tsev (1984) used extrapolation from aerial and density estimates to enumerate between 9 and 12 thousand walruses. The 1990 aerial survey indicated more than 12 thousand walruses on 30 September (Gilbert and others, 1992).

Estimates from 97,000 to 115,000 walruses of mixed age and sex classes are noted in October of 2009 and 2011 (Kochnev, 2010b; Chakilev and others, 2012; Kochnev 2012). Residents from Enurmino and Inchoun indicated that the exceptionally large haulout documented during 2009 and 2011 may have formed similarly large in the years of sea ice scarcity prior to the 2009 monitoring effort (Kochnev, 2010b). During the 2011 monitoring effort, mortalities (n=120) attributed to trampling was noted that disproportionately affected younger animals (Kochnev 2012).

2. Andrew Montford has explained that images of the jagged cliff face from the film match perfectly with archived photos of the cliff face of Cape Kozhevnikov near the village of Ryrkaipiy (at Cape Schmidt) near the village of Ryrkaipiy. Also, EXIF photo metadata show that the footage was shot on 19 September 2017.

3. ‘Our Planet’ director Sophie Lanfear admitted to Ed Yong at The Atlantic that footage from two different locations were spliced together in the walrus film, perhaps giving the impression that the cliff haulout was part of the beach where over 1000,000 walruses were hauled out. She has so far refused to say which beach haulout they used for filming, but it is clear from remarks shared with various news outlets that the crew spent the majority of seven weeks at that location [my bold].

“…the seven-person Our Planet team filmed one of the largest haul-out sites—a single beach where 100,000 walruses tessellate into a solid red mat of tusks and blubber. The animals arrived almost overnight, while the team slept in a cramped hut. …

The walruses gather “out of desperation, not out of choice,” David Attenborough says over the resulting footage. “A stampede can occur out of nowhere. Under these conditions, walruses are a danger to themselves.” And so they climb “to find space away from the crowds.”

As the walruses spread across the beach, some start heading up a shallow slope, which curves into a steeper escarpment, which eventually culminates in 260-feet cliffs.

…Our Planet draws a straight line between climate change, sea-ice loss, bigger haul-outs, overcrowding, climbing walruses, and falling walruses. “It is not a normal event,” says Lanfear. “It’s such a tangible, obvious thing to show people. It’s clear as day.”

…Lanfear clarifies that the sequence includes footage from two separate beaches—one with the 100,000-strong congregation and one with the falls. At the latter, walruses started climbing only once the area beneath the cliffs had completely filled up; gregarious or not, they had no room. Once at the top, they rested for a few days, and walked off only after the beaches below had emptied. Indeed, as the narration suggests, the sounds of their departing comrades may have lured the cliff-top walruses off the edge. “They seemed to all want to return to the sea to feed as a group,” Lanfear says.”

The haulout beach may have been Cape Serdtse-Kamen, several hundred km east of Cape Kozhevnikov, the only location within the range of Pacific walrus that haulouts of >100,000 animals have been recorded (Fischbach et al. 2016 database, see footnote 1). Such large herds were documented in 2009 and 2011, making it an attractive location for filmmakers intent on dramatic footage of heaving masses of walrus.

Also, according to The Atlantic I was not the only scientist to question the filmmaker’s interpretation of what was happening on the cliffs:

But a few walrus scientists who saw the clip have questioned parts of this narrative—including the claim that walruses are climbing “to find space away from the crowds.”

“Walruses thrive on crowds and haul out in tight groups, even when space is available,” says Lori Quakenbush from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Also, in the sequence, it looks as if the beach beneath the teetering walruses is relatively empty. What crowds are they escaping from?

4. ‘Behind the Scenes’ trailer:

References

Crockford, S.J. 2014. On The Beach: Walrus Haulouts are Nothing New. The Global Warming Policy Foundation Briefing 11, London. Also available here

Fischbach, A.S., Kochnev, A.A., Garlich-Miller, J.L., and Jay, C.V. 2016. Pacific walrus coastal haulout database, 1852–2016—Background report: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016–1108. http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20161108. The online database is found here.

Lowry, L. 1985. “Pacific Walrus – Boom or Bust?” Alaska Fish & Game Magazine July/August: 2-5. pdf here.

MacCracken, J.G., Beatty, W.S., Garlich-Miller, J.L., Kissling, M.L and Snyder, J.A. 2017. Final Species Status Assessment for the Pacific Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens), May 2017 (Version 1.0). US Fish & Wildlife Service, Anchorage, AK. Pdf  here (8.6 mb).

US Fish and Wildlife Service 2017a. Press Release (4 October 2017).

US Fish and Wildlife Service 2017b. Endangered and threatened wildlife and plants; 12-month findings on petitions to list 25 species as endangered or threatened. Federal Register 82:46618-46645.

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82 thoughts on “‘Our Planet’ film crew is still lying about walrus cliff deaths: here’s how we know

      • Darwinian selection in action. Green New Dealers will soon be following these walrus, unable to resist the temptation of jumping off the cliffs of “fossil carbon” on which their survival relies.

        • Exactly Greg.

          You can see in the clip that a small group of walrus were clustered right at the edge of the cliff, when there is ample space nearby that they could have utilised. The ones who fell were gradually pushed off by other walrus as they moved. They were foolish/unlucky to have been first to reach the edge, & had nowhere to go when the rest of the group arrived & bunched up.

      • Considering that Native Americans used to stampeded entire herds of bison off cliffs and this was considered Good and Natural…I don’t see the problem here.

  1. No one will be surprised to discover National Public Radio’s fawning report on the series which aired this evening.

    Their very specific discussion of the walrus episode was presented with no caveat, doubt or contradiction to the assertion that “climate change” was the underlying cause.

  2. Funny. I thought one of the main sources of food for polar bear was walrus. Does this mean there are more polar bears than we are led to believe?

    Maybe we should convert polar bear to vegan-ism.

  3. Wouldn’t global warming actually HELP the walrus? With little or no sea ice, the Polar Bears would have to swim long distances to find the walrus … thus allowing the walrus to take up residency on remote islands … free of predators.

    And IF … global warming was making the Walrus easy pickins … then wouldn’t the Polar Bear population THRIVE!! Then Al Gore and the idiotic eco-fascists could remove the Polar Bear from the “endangered” list?

    And what of … the eco-leftists core belief in evolution? Do they not believe the walrus could … adapt? To a changing environment? That all the smart walrus who had the brain size to avoid Polar Bear haunts … would live to reproduce smarter, more clever offspring?

    Herein lies the conceit of the eco-fascist … that THEY and only THEY can “save” any particular species. And that the ONLY way to save any animal species is to dramatically reduce the human population (by any means necessary), and to destroy Captitalism which has unleashed mankind’s meteoric evolution to the indomitable
    alpha species.

    The CAGWists don’t even think things through to their LOGICAL conclusions. Just another weepy nature story like a forlorn Polar Bear clinging “desperately” to a melting floe of summer ice. The transparency of their narrative is just embarrassing.

    • I used to be amused, when we lived in Monterey, CA, at the palpitations engendered in the eco-warriors when orcas (one of their pet species) attacked and killed gray whales (another one). Such angst was caused by the actual, messy processes of nature taking place, and they couldn’t do anything about it! So now we have cuddly polar bears (at least in their minds) hunting walruses, some of which fall over a cliff as they flee. And somehow mankind is (always) to blame for animals doing what animals do.

      • You mean the “eco-warriors” are to stupid to understand that killer whales have always feed on grey whales calves and any adult they can catch. Why do they think humans name those orcas Killer Whales? Well as Ron White put it “you can’t fix stupid” but you know it is damn had putting up with the Grand Canyon deep of eco-warriors stupidity.

        • Not killers. They are misunderstood. They all plan to stop eating whale meat and only eat seaweed salad from now on

      • Weatherguesser

        I had a look at the whole, dreadfully misinformative documentary. The details supplied above in the article clarify why the cliffs look different in the large haulout and the ones from which they fell.

        So the deal is the polar bears were scaring animals in early September but there was no one there to film it.

        The storyline is essentially untrue. First there is never sea ice in September so anything the animals do naturally doesn’t take place on ice, missing or not. It always took place on land. September is when the ice cover is at its minimum and the story takes place in September.

        Missing from the criticism of the documentary are exposure of the lies about the Antarctic. It is plainly stated that the sea ice is disappearing from around Antarctica (without a number, which is provided for the Arctic) and that this loss (not the slow decades-long increase observed) is reducing the number of krill, which is reducing the population of penguins and whales. They do not relate it to the slow drop in temperature and peak ice coverage. Obviously the temperature is not mentioned though words are provided to indicate the world is warming and it is our fault.

        The Antarctic claims are bluntly stated and false. They also imply that any reduction in the population of any bird species is caused by humans.

        While the falsity of claims about the South are false, the lies about the walruses are probably going to get more attention because of the shocking exposure it provides for nature, red in tooth and claw.

    • Kenji

      FYI:

      The 50 recorded ultra-marathon swims averaged 96 miles, and one bear was able to swim nearly 220 miles, according to the study results. The duration of the long-distance swims lasted from most of a day to nearly 10 days, according to the study.

      Polar Bears are the only bear species to be considered marine mammals. In fact the latin name for Polar Bear, Ursus maritimus, means maritime bear. This is because they depend on the ocean for their food and habitat..

      I poached the above from Wikipedia.

  4. There were 100 German scientists against Einstein. I wonder how many “scientists” they’ll mobilize against Susan Crockford?

    Germans got some really good names for their stunt. Will “Our Planet” crew get anybody better than Stephan Lewandowsky?

  5. You know (because he is 92) I think I will just give Attenborough a break on his voice acting role on this occasion.

    Pretty sure providing voiceovers didn’t make Tim Allen a space ranger or Tom Hanks a cowboy.

    I know people are gonna disagree, but is Attenborough’s recent work any more credible than Morgan Freeman’s?

    • Morgan Freeman is the prototypical “magic negro” … which makes his credibility unassailable. You need to keep up with the social justice rubric. Attenborough is nothing more than an ollllllld white man … soon to be a dead white man.

      • I like Morgan Freeman’s acting. I think he always adds to a movie. Attenborough is nothing but a voice.

        Leonard Nimoy and Vincent Price are also worth money because of their voices. And I’d give both of these more credit for more smarts than I would Attenborough.

  6. Well I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, to hear that an ultra-alarmist tv series would stoop to presenting dodgy alarmist footage to alarm their salivating audiences.

    What is climate porn coming to these days?

    (I shall write to The Times!)

    • What’s this? People are questioning the honesty of Climate Heroes? We can’t have that.

      Quick, some University needs to give everyone involved and emergency Ethics Award. That will prove how trustworthy they all are.

      ~¿~

    • Good question.
      My first guess is that, as aquatic mammals, they are used to living in three dimensions.
      Swimming up or down is natural so why not waddling up and down too?

    • I think you mistake the route up and the route down.
      Look at the photo with the cliffs.
      On the left side the photo is truncated, but there is a slope.
      On the right is a cliff.
      They do not see well on land. (I’m not much aware of this sight issue.
      Do they see better under water? )
      They will leave in a hurry if they believe they are threatened.
      So, over the cliff for some. How many? What percent?

      I haven’t followed up on these things.
      Maybe Susan knows.

  7. Well, if Lanfear admits that the film crews used drones, which likely spooked the walruses just as much as an invading polar bear would do, then SHE has to admit that SHE is at fault for all those walrus deaths, and that lemmings are smarter than she is.

    But she won’t admit to doing anything wrong, because the cash cow will be affected. That’s how it works.

    • More like a cash moon. More money then we’ll ever see. What’s a few Trillion here and there to save them from planetary destruction that evil deniers like us are surely causing.

      If she ever did admit to doing anything wrong it would be swept under the UN rug months or years after the incident. Would the liberal media or socialist media cover it on primetime? Of course not unless it could be spun to get more funding for the cause. Very few of the eco-fascist believers would ever even hear about it if the liars ever did admit it in a statement to the public at some obscure time with little to no coverage. If any of the believers did actually see the redacting they would probably get angry and decide that they need to do more to prevent this in the future by fighting the evil C02 emitters. We can’t fight the faith and win. We can only try and change minds.

  8. The BBC has also been previously rumbled by fake environmental reporting involving the boy Attenborough.
    e.g. https://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/frozen-planet-scandal-sir-david-96593
    It is no surprise that other TV companies will do the same.

    Indeed, back in the 80’s I recall being told by an aquaintance, who was filming Condors to support his caving and climbing habit, that it was common practice to corral wild animals to get good film footage for TV.
    The economic imperative is clear for many wildlife programs: The naturalists see something but can rarely capture it on camera, so they think it’s acceptable to fake it even if they have misunderstood the causes. But where does it stop once that practice is established? Probabably not when it comes to faking scenes that fit the funding and political imperatives that affect those doing it.

  9. Even if they come and out agree it was the same instant and it was polar bears , do you think the press will give that ANY coverage ?
    It is all about the ‘impact ‘ and facts be dammed , they are out to sell a message of doom and get the cash in , not to provide accurate reporting .

  10. It looked like there was not enough space on the beach so the overflow walruses had to climb to higher ground. The population is large for the terrain. Ice melts every the summer. Walruses haul out in the summer. Nature is cruel.

  11. Walruses carry thermometers?

    I expect they know more about local climate than all the scientists on earth combined. But how would they know about GLOBAL warming? Did the polar bears tell them?

    Honestly I have enjoyed watching the Attenborough series for it stunning photography. However I have noticed on occasions the same footage being used in a different wildlife film. Who pinched it from whom I don’t know but it does make one wonder about the originality of it all.

  12. “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on…”

    – unknown (frequently, but erroneously attributed to Mark Twain)

    The Climate Cultists know this (above quote), so they’ll just keep on lying knowing the Liberal media won’t press the issue or report on skepticism as its suits the narrative they’ve bought into.

    • Joel o’Bryan

      “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on…”

      – unknown (frequently, but erroneously attributed to Mark Twain)

      I have only heard of that quote being used by Terry Pratchert (author of the Diskworld series, in “The Truth.” However, in that novel, he was writing as if it were an established quote from some one else.

  13. Sadly, as with a lot of other false stories about climate change, far more people will have seen the original than will see the rebuttals so whatever lies are exposed will still be believed by a lot of people. Chances are producers and editors don’t care if they are found out to be lying because the lie reaches a far bigger audience than the truth.

  14. We should not be surprised at anything we see on TV. Look at the so called
    “Reality shows” Note the large number of flaming torches, flammable oils
    were scarce, so only a few would have been used. And all of these
    actors doing it tough on the film, go to a nice comfortable hotel at the end
    of each days shoot.

    MJE VK5ELL

  15. Climate change or not this whole kerfuffle reminds me of the stories from the Old West in the USA where ‘Indians’ are said to carefully herd and stampede buffalo over bluffs. Once the main herd escaped, the tribe would move in and butcher the dead and injured at the bottom of the cliff. More than one painting of this practice exists.
    The moral seems to be that if it was OK for the Indians to do it, it is surely OK for polar bears to copy the technique. [Maybe they learned from the Indians?] However, I don’t think the polar bear are able to dry and cure the meat for consumption in the winter – but I might be wrong!

  16. The crew and WWF can show I’m wrong by providing evidence of where the Netflix film footage was shot, where the haulout of >100,000 walrus was located, and the date in 2017 when the polar bear initiated walrus deaths at Cape Kozhevnikov occurred. If so, I will amend this post accordingly.

    Please don’t hold your breath waiting; I enjoy your posts.

  17. Wherever did people get this weird idea that walrus don’t habitually haul out on land?

    Take a look at Svalbard. When it was discovered in 1596 there was tens if not hundreds of thousands walrus there. One of the biggest colonies was on Moffen Island, discovered by 1655. Walrus hunting there is first mentioned in 1723 and in 1767 alone 2200 walrus were slaughtered there. The total must have run in tens of thousands, the whole island is littered with walrus skeletons, all de-tusked. Remember, this was right in the middle of the Little Ice Age, there was definitely no shortage of sea-ice.

    By the nineteenth century the Moffen colony had been exterminated, and by 1952 when the walrus was finally fully protected in Svalbard there was no longer any breeding population there, only occasional strays from the small remnant population on Franz Josephs land. However this too was protected in 1956 and started slowly increasing, and so did the number of walrus seen around Svalbard.

    In 1973 the walrus returned as a resident, breeding species in Svalbard. Did these walrus haul out on sea-ice as any politically correct walrus should? They did not. They re-colonized Moffen where their ancestors had hauled out centuries before.

    The walrus have kept slowly increasing in numbers and the joint Svalbard-Fran Josephs Land population probably comprises about 5,000 animals, which haul out in about a dozen places in Svalbard, all on land.

  18. This post (in Russian original, but with google translation) has contemporaneous stills shot in September 2017 and a fair amount of detail about the history of the area and description of the circumstances that can lead to walrus cliff jumping. Recommended reading as an eye witness account (even if he failed to mention the film crew, but perhaps the reason for that is revealed in the next post)

    This one confirms the filming location and mentions a non-disclosure agreement signed by Anatoly Kochnev, who was the advisor to the BBC/Living Planet filming team, as he explains.

    On the previous thread, I quoted from the diaries of Captain Cook’s expedition in 1778, where he managed to reach the Cape (which he named Cape North – it only got its modern name in 1934, after a Soviet Arctic scientist, Otto Schmidt – a naming practice carried over to the tankers for Yamal LNG except Christophe de Margerie). Cook then decided to turn back because of advancing sea ice. The crews hunted walrus on the ice, and watched them plunging off it when alarmed.

  19. Perhaps I should have added that the polar bear patrol uses flare cartridges and torches to try to move on polar bears that either threaten the walruses or the village. I imagine flare cartridges that are enough to scare a polar bear away must be alarming for walruses.

    I can’t persuade this post to go via translate, so if you don’t read Russian, you’ll have to copy/paste the text section by section into your favourite translator. It does provide insight into the polar bear patrol.

    [That is the oddest link id the mods have ever seen. .mod]

    • Reads OK as Russian when I hover over it (how bears, walruses and humans live together), but I guess the font used results in some strange hex representation when I copied and pasted it.

  20. 40,000 to 100,000 walruses on one smallish beach! Nature has her ways of dealing with over population. “Red in tooth and claw”, and all that. Sad to watch, but so are scenes of hatchling turtles being scooped up by sea gulls or baby allbatrosses being picked of by frigate birds. But, twas ever thus.

  21. EXIF dates in the images posted by Yevgeny Basov (read his write-up I linked above):

    1 – Walruses – 21 Sep 17
    2 – Anatoly Kochnev – 16 Sep 17
    3. Harvesting walrus in Ryrkipia. Late 1930s – undated scan of photo
    4. Return of walruses to Ryrkipiy, 2007 – 1 Jan 2005 (Camera not properly set)
    5. Walruses came out on the entire east coast of the Kozhevnikov cliff – 15 Sep 2005 shot with Canon A520
    6. View of the Kozhevnikov cliff from Ryrkaypy – 18 Sep 17
    7. Spit connecting the cliff and the mainland – 16 Sep 17
    8. Walrus bristles and vibrissae – 21 Sep 17
    9. Walrus skin. – 17 Sep 17
    10. Color of rookery – 21 Sep 17 (note no walruses present in image)
    11. Walrus walking on four limbs resembles a polar bear – 16 Sep 17
    12 (untitled sea view) – 17 Sep 17
    13. The exit-entry walrus – 17 Sep 17
    14. Walruses in the sea – 27 Sep 17
    15. Corpses of walruses on the spit – 20 Sep 17
    16. A seagull on a corpse in the sea – 19 Sep 17
    17. Descent of walrus from the cliff. – 21 Sep 17 (walking back down slope – not over cliff)
    18. (ibid) – 21 Sep 17
    nineteen – 21 Sep 17
    20. Happy salvation – 21 Sep 17
    21. Rookery Gradually, the upper walrus will migrate higher and will be on the rocks – 17 Sep 17
    22. These two “cheerful” walrus are no longer tenants. They are agonizing. In a day’s day they will die – 17 Sep 17
    23. On the top, on the rocks you can see walruses. From these rocks they fall down onto the stones – 22 Sep 17
    24. Corpses on the spit. Here they were taken by storm. – 27 Sep 17
    25. On the motive of the song DDT “That’s all that remains ….”. Here beared bears and dog – 1 Oct 17

  22. “including the claim that walruses are climbing “to find space away from the crowds.”

    One of the many horrors of laypeople narrating nature scenes they misunderstand. Especially distressing is their constant attempts to anthropomorphize nature interactions with human feelings and thinking processes.

    “The number of falling walrus may have been exacerbated by the use of drones”

    Let’s rephrase and analyze.
    A) Short time frame and heavy pressures to film useful scenes.
    B) Geeks with drones. They would not be the first wackadoos to use flying equipment to harass animals.
    C) Add in directors and producers demanding gut wrenching film and drone operators are encouraged to “assist” the walruses into a panic.

    D) Remind everyone that WWF is involved in this film.
    * i) Option 1: Crews spend weeks honestly searching for extremely rare film events?
    Or
    * ii) Option 2: Crews somehow film an entire movie in a very short span; with exactly the scenes they can use…

    Saints or even honorable, WWF and it’s employees are not.
    A subpoena to search the production facilities used for the film would likely provide the answers.

  23. The fact that they won’t be upfront about the place of filming indicates that something dodgy was going on.

  24. Walrus rely on hauling out on sea ice over shallow water… and over the last decade that sea ice simply has not been there, with ice retreating fast and early from the Alaskan and Siberian coasts, into deeper water.

    So Walrus ARE hauling out more on land and that means they ARE more vulnerable to stampedes.

    • “Walrus rely on hauling out on sea ice over shallow water”

      No they don’t. They mostly haul out on land. Always have, or at least far back as we have records (c. 16th century). The situation is somewhat special in northeastern Siberia since the Laptev Sea is uniquely shallow and there are therefore suitable feeding grounds for walrus very far from the nearest coast.

      How do you think they survived when they lived in areas where there is no sea-ice, like northern Norway or Sable Island?

  25. The clip shown just suggests that the walruses had moved up the slope slowly but that those at the leading edge gradually found themselves at the cliff and were unable to move back. You can see them struggling to hang on, something they are not designed for. Poor crowd control.
    The question is why they were moving up the cliff – chased or just overcrowded? Since the records suggest that there is nothing new about the overcrowding this must just be an unfortunate natural wastage- unfortunate for the walrus,: good for polar bears and film crews, both of which may have been expecting it.

  26. Don’t suppose that those cameramen with their tripods and drones spooked the walruses? If so, then their raw footage would probably show it. Could an offer of money and anonymity encourage a ‘leak’?

  27. If local researchers had a sense of humor they could put up directional signs along the path to the top of the cliff that say “Scenic Overlook” or “Polar bear food drop off”. Temporarily at least for a photo op.

  28. Watching Gogglebox (not something I normally do), but caught them reacting to the walrus scene and you can see just what biased, climate change propaganda does to those who know no different and how it attacks their emotions!!
    Lies/propaganda are dangerous and the BBC and David Attenborough and his crew should be truely ashamed of their actions!! I have completely lost any respect for all of them.

  29. It’s a sad state of affairs when one realizes that a newspaper from the former Soviet Union is instinctively more trustworthy than a major American media outlet.

  30. Well, tomorrow, Thursday 18th at 2100 BST sees the BBC trotting out Mr Attenborough once again to crank up his breathless earnestness to the max with their latest propaganda show, “Climate Change – the facts”. Lets see how many lies an hour he can manage.

  31. Haul outs of over 100,000 walrus speaks directly to how healthy the planet it. But when donations from the gullible are on the table any set of lies will do nicely.

  32. The above article links to this story – but misrepresents it,
    https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/04/why-are-walruses-walking-off-cliffs/586510/

    Evidently the decline in summer sea ice, which has disappeared from the Chukchi sea since about the turn of the century, has forced a change in walrus behavior with such massive haul-outs (in the tens of thousands) only occurring since the disappearance of the sea ice, which had been the primary summer abode, especially of mothers and their young.
    With the retreat of summer ice these mass haul-outs once extremely rare, have become common.

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