Our Planet: Netflix viewers left distraught by 'devastating' walrus scene in David Attenborough documentary

Scene in episode two of new series shows several walruses jumping from a cliff in Russia

Clémence Michallon
New York
Wednesday 10 April 2019 07:41
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Our planet shows footage of walruses plunging to their deaths

A scene in David Attenborough’s new Netflix documentary series Our Planet, which features a walrus falling from the top of a cliff, has left many viewers distressed.

The scene is part of the second episode, Frozen Worlds, and focuses on a large group of walruses in northeast Russia.

According to Attenborough’s narration, the more than 100,000 walruses are left gathering on a single beach ”out of desperation”, because their natural habitat, the sea ice, has moved to the north.

“Under these conditions, walruses are a danger to themselves,” Attenborough says, before the documentary shifts its attention to a group of walruses who have scaled an 80-meter (262-foot) cliff, in search of “space of rest”.

According to the segment, walruses have poor eyesight out of water but can feel the presence of the other animals at the bottom of the cliff – and are left looking for a way to return to the sea in order to search for food.

A walrus is then shown half-jumping, half-falling down the cliff, painfully bouncing against the rocky surface. Several other animals follow suit, suffering the same tragic fall.

“In their desperation to [return to the sea], hundreds fall from heights they should never have scaled,” Attenborough narrates.

The sequence ends with close-ups of the walruses’ still bodies lying at the bottom of the cliff.

The documentary and its producers have presented the scene as a painful illustration of the impact of climate change.

“This is the sad reality of climate change,” Sophie Lanfear, the wildlife documentary producer and director behind the episode, told The Atlantic. “They’d be on the ice if they could.”

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Some have suggested that other – possibly unknown – factors could have contributed to the walruses’ fall from the cliff, and that similar behaviour has been observed, albeit at a different scale, when walruses weren’t believed to be lacking liveable space.

It remains widely accepted that climate change has affected walruses’ lives. Nicole Misarti, a water and environmental researcher from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, told The Atlantic that it is believed that walruses have increasingly hauled out on land due to the loss of sea ice.

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Viewers have expressed their sorrow after watching the Our Planet sequence. Among them is Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness, who tweeted: “No walruses nooooooooo just shimmy down the way you came omg noooooo.”

“That walrus scene in episode two of #OurPlanet is devastating,” another viewer wrote.

Someone else tweeted: “I’ve just watched the #walrus scene on @ourplanet. I’m lost for words.”

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