Netflix faces backlash over walrus death-plunge scene in David Attenborough’s 'Our Planet' doc series

The walrus in 'Our Planet'. (Sophie Lanfear / Silverback/Netflix)
The walrus in 'Our Planet'. (Sophie Lanfear / Silverback/Netflix)

WARNING: This article contains content not suitable for sensitive viewers

Cape Town – Netflix is facing growing pushback from viewers, as well as backlash from environmental critics, who are horrified over a scene of walruses filmed plunging to their deaths in the new Sir David Attenborough documentary series Our Planet.

Shocked and distraught viewers have been left in tears with many refusing to watch further following the harrowing now-called 'Walrus scene' in the documentary series.

In the gut-wrenching scene filmed in the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia just south of the Arctic Circle, walruses fall off a cliff and plunge to their death because the Netflix documentary says they are unable to cope with climate change that has caused ice to melt and their natural habitat to shrink, driving the animals in large numbers to land where they can't properly fend for themselves.

Research and environmental critics have come out to say the Netflix narrative over the true nature of the scene is misleading and say that it was polar bears that drove the walruses to go over the cliff and wrong of Netflix to blame climate change for the walrus incident.

Netflix is standing by its depiction and reason for what happened.

In the scene many heavy walruses are filmed dropping to their deaths as they plunge over a cliff edge, some dying instantaneously, others bouncing and crushing those already below.

Sophie Lanfear, the producer of Our Planet, told The New York Times that the 'Walrus scene' was one of "the hardest things I’ve ever had to witness or film in my career", saying she wasn't prepared for the scale of death".

"What we think is going on is that the ones at the top can probably hear the ones in the water, and they can sense that there is water below. They teeter on the edge, and they just can't work out how to get down there."

"A small group of maybe six or seven would make it down safely, and we'd all celebrate. But the vast majority do not. They basically walk themselves off the cliff."

In a tweet on social media, Sophie Lanfear addressed the criticism, saying that "the bears were not driving them off the cliffs".


In a tweet on social media, the Greenpeace co-founder, Patrick Moore, criticised the Our Planet scene, saying: "This must be the most ridiculous thing ever ascribed to 'climate change'".

Dr Susan Crockford, a zoologist, told The Telegraph that Netflix's narrative over the Our Planet scene is "contrived nonsense" and that "This powerful story is fiction and emotional manipulation at its worst".

"The walruses shown in this Netflix film were almost certainly driven over the cliff by polar bears during a well-publicised incident in 2017."

"Even if the footage shown by Attenborough was not the 2017 incident in Ryrkaypiy, we know that walruses reach the top of cliffs in some locations and might fall if startled by polar bears, people or aircraft overhead, not because they are confused by shrinking sea ice cover."

In a behind-the-scenes segment from the Our Planet series that Netflix placed on YouTube a cameraman in a voice-over says "there's probably two or three hundred dead walrus on probably a half-mile stretch of beach here".

"They're exhausted because they're having to swim a hundred miles now to get to food and then coming back here because it's the only place to sleep. They used to sleep on the ice and dive down, eat the food and sleep on the ice. Easy. And now they’re swimming a hundred miles, coming to this place and climbing cliffs, getting exhausted and falling down and either being killed falling, or crushing each other because there's several thousand crammed onto little tiny bits of beaches."


(WARNING: This video contains scenes not suitable for sensitive viewers)

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