Frozen Planet documentary maker in trouble for 'disturbing' Norway's polar bears

 

One of the experts behind the critically acclaimed documentary
Frozen Planet, is in hot water in Norway over “disturbing”
polar bears for another BBC show while filming them in the
wild.

Australian Jason Roberts has been filming polar bears in Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean that is the northernmost part of Norway, for 22 years and has worked with broadcasters from all over the world.

He was last week notified by the Norwegian authorities that he faced a fine for “disturbing” the polar bears during work on the BBC’s co-production with the Discovery channel The Polar Bear Family & Me. The show screened in the UK on BBC Two in January.

Mr Roberts was the expert, field producer and safety advisor for the show’s production team fronted by wildlife cameraman and presenter Gordon Buchanan.

In getting as close as possible to the polar bears, Mr Buchanan sat in a Perspex box, dubbed the “ice cube” close to a den. He talked of his delight at the experience, saying “I never dreamed I’d get so close”.

The Svalbard Governor, which oversees the archipelago, was less impressed. Strict environmental legislation protects the polar bears on Svalbard, and it believes the production may have fallen foul of the regulations after filming the animals from the ice cube.

Deputy governor Lars Erik Alfheim wrote to the Mr Roberts to give him “advanced warning of a fine for disturbing the polar bears,” saying he could face a fine of 50,000 Norwegian krona (£5,800).

“When you make a cage with a man inside and a polar bear attacks it, that is a disturbance,” Mr Alfheim said. If the animal had got into the box and attacked the presenter the production team would have had to kill it.

The Svalbard deputy said it was an “administrative offence” and fell outside the criminal system. Mr Roberts has 14 days to reply outlining his side of the story. 

Mr Roberts did not return calls yesterday. Yet he told Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten that he would refuse to pay the fine as the cage had caused the animals no harm.

“I love them and have never bothered, disturbed or injured them,” he said, adding that the law’s demands for protective measures was why they used the cage.

“Polar bears are curious, and them walking 50 metres to investigate cannot possibly be regarded as bothering them.” He has been using cages, in different forms, for two decades.

Polar bears are the symbol of the archipelago, with a common population of 3,000 shared with Franz Joseph Land.

While they are protected, polar bears are killed if they attack humans. In 2011, a 17-year old British tourist was killed, with four others injured on Spitsbergen, the only populated island of Svalbard, after a polar bear attacked the camp. It was then shot.

The deputy governor said he knew Mr Roberts and his work; “on an island of 2,000 you tend to know most people”.

The BBC did not return calls. Two years ago, the BBC faced questions over filming polar bears in a zoo as part of its documentary series Frozen Planet.

Reports claimed that footage cut into the programme of recently born cubs was misleading as it had been taken in a zoo rather than the Arctic. Some felt the BBC had not made it clear.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition
    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?