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.

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence