Swimming bear video used for propaganda was not shot with bear-mounted cameras

I just went back to Andy Revkin’s blog post on the swimming polar bear video story that I wrote about on Wednesday to see what kind of feedback it was getting. I found that it pays to check up.

pbear_swimming_USGS

A reader from Oregon questioned the filming techniques used for this video.

Revkin followed up.

And it turned out, the reader from Oregon was correct — the film used in this video was shot with “an assortment of traditional methods,not with the strapped on cameras that the USGS were using on the bears.

Revkin assumed from the background provided to him that this was leading-edge technology, bear-generated video. And even though he’d interviewed the filmmaker, the truth hadn’t come out.

Update June 29, 2014 – another damning comment made, added below.

Read the exchange below from Revkin’s blog:

David Cothran  Ashland OR Yesterday

Andrew,
I have spent quite a bit of time observing polar bears during the course of 12 summer seasons working as a guide and photographer in Svalbard. In my view, the bears in this footage often appear quite stressed, swimming rapidly away from the camera, turning to look behind and even diving briefly. I think that it is quite unlikely that all, or even most of this video was shot from cameras mounted on bears. As another commenter said, it very much appears that the bears are fleeing from a boat. I would like to hear from Ravetch’s team and other wildlife film makers about this question. It certainly appears to me that the majority of the footage was shot with pole-mounted cameras.

Stressing bears by chasing them, particularly when they are swimming, is illegal in many parts of their range and certainly unethical anywhere. I have great respect for your blog and the careful attention you give to complex issues; I hope that you will look further into this. Film makers working with politically charged species like polar bears must be very careful that their methods are unassailable.

David

Andrew Revkin
undefined 20 hours ago

I sent your note to Ravetch and he clarified that this footage was not shot with the new strapped-on cameras, as you suspected.

He included this note: “That footage was not taken with strapped on cameras and was documented with an assortment of traditional techniques. Aerial, pole cam, and more traditional filming techniques…. I operate with the greatest respect for animals when I am around them for brief periods of time.” [SJC bold]

Thanks for offering your valuable insight. (I also fixed the photo caption to avoid confusion.)

Kudos to Revkin for not dismissing the comment and for following through.

[See the video here]

This video was strictly propaganda from the get-go. The new-fangled camera technology Ravetch’s company and USGS polar bear biologists had been experimenting with was not used at all in the filming of this video.

Update June 29 – comment left today by Kelsey Eliasson

Kelsey Eliasson, Churchill 13 hours ago

I work as a polar bear guide in Churchill. These images looks like they came from Hudson Bay, likely near Southampton Island, when Ravetch was filming there in the summer of 2012, I believe. I have seen raw footage of this event and the bear is so stressed that at one point, it actually tries to climb into the boat after being followed for a considerable amount of time. Beautiful shot though.

So, this seems like it is not USGS, not in the Beaufort Sea and filmed in the summer. If I am wrong, I apologize, however, the similarities in the footage are striking.

The Arctic Exploration Fund actually seems like it is just raising money for documentary projects not actual research – wish I had thought of that.

It is very unfortunate that management decisions are being based on fictional portrayals of polar bear habitat and behaviour. The bears are the ones that will suffer in the long run.

Kels

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