Category Archives: walrus

‘Our Planet’ film crew is still lying about walrus cliff deaths: here’s how we know

Last week, I called “contrived nonsense” on the claim by David Attenborough and the production crew of Netflix’s ‘Our Planet’ that the walruses they showed falling to their deaths were victims of global warming. After unbelieveable media attention since then, newly-revealed details only solidify my assertion. Something stinks, and it’s not just the bad acting of director Sophie Lanfear in the Behind the Scenes trailer as she delivers her WWF-approved message: “This is the sad reality of climate change”.

walruses2-1024x683_USGS

Despite many statements to the press, the film crew have steadfastly refused to reveal precisely where and when they filmed the walrus deaths shown in this film in relation to the walrus deaths initiated by polar bears reported by The Siberian Times in the fall of 2017.

I can only conclude, therefore, that the two incidents are indeed essentially one and the same: that the filmmakers, probably alerted by resident WWF employees at Ryrkaipiy, moved in after polar bears caused hundreds of walrus to fall to their deaths. The crew then captured on film the last few falls over the cliff as the walrus herd moved away from the haulout.

The lie being told by Attenborough and the film crew is that 200-300 walruses fell during the time they were filming, while in fact they filmed only a few: polar bears were responsible for the majority of the carcasses shown on the beach below the cliff. This is, of course, in addition to the bigger lie that lack of sea ice is to blame for walrus herds being onshore in the first place.

See my point-by-point analysis below and make up your own mind.

UPDATE 21 April 2019: I had an opportunity last night to watch the original Netflix walrus episode and have some addition thoughts that I’ve added below. [see separate post here]

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Attenborough’s tragedy porn of walruses plunging to their deaths because of climate change is contrived nonsense

A recent Netflix ‘Our Planet’ program with David Attenborough delivering a disturbing message of doom about walruses falling off a cliff to their deaths because of climate change is contrived nonsense on par with the bogus National Geographic starving polar bear video of 2017.  The walruses shown in this Netflix film were almost certainly driven over the cliff by polar bears during a well-publicized incident in 2017, not because they were “confused by a combination of shrinking ice cover and their own poor eyesight“.

Walrus plunging cliff_The Sun headline 5 April 2019

Apologies for neglecting to add, h/t to Charles the Moderator from WUWT!

UPDATE 8 April 2019: Falling off cliffs is not a new phenomenon. Here is video of US Fish and Wildlife officials in 1994 trying to explain a situation where walruses are falling even without the impetus from polar bears, at Cape Pierce in the southern Bering Sea (a haulout for adult males during the ice-free season). Explanation? Overcrowding (too many walruses)! h/t to Mark Sullivan.

Also, see this 8 April 2019 piece from The Atlantic that confirms the ‘Our Planet’ footage was filmed in 2017, and that “the sequence includes footage from two separate beaches—one with the 100,000-strong congregation and one with the falls.”

UPDATE 9 April 2019: For the details on why the two events described below (the one filmed by Attenborough’s ‘Our Planet’ crew and the event reported by the Siberian Times in 2017) are almost certainly one and the same, see Andrew Montford’s post at The Spectator. The Global Warming Policy Foundation has issued a press release.

UPDATE 14 April 2019: New details show that the film crew are still lying about the walrus death event in the Netflix ‘Our Planet’ episode, summarized by me here.

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Published essay: the conservation fiasco that is the ESA listing of polar bears

In early October, the US Fish & Wildlife Service reversed its 2011 decision to list Pacific walrus as ‘threatened with extinction’, saying they could not “determine with certainty that walruses are likely to become endangered “in the foreseeable future.” [details below]

I have argued that the 2008 decision by the USFWS to list polar bears as ‘threatened’ is similarly lacking in certainty (Crockford 2017) and as for walrus, the previous determination of ‘threatened’ for polar bears was premature and should be reversed.

Conservation Fiasco_lead photo_WINTER 2017 RANGE

A prominent biology colleague and I recently put it this way in a newly published essay:

“Is it ethical or fair to the many citizens impacted directly and indirectly by the 2008 polar bear ruling for the FWS to allow polar bears to remain on the Endangered Species List?”

Read our piece in the winter 2018 issue of RANGE Magazine (open access), authored by myself and Dr. Valerius Geist, professor emeritus of environmental science at the University of Calgary, Alberta.

Crockford, S.J. and Geist, V. 2018. Conservation Fiasco. Range Magazine, Winter 2017/2018, pg. 26-27. Pdf here.

PS. You’ll find an excellent piece on wildfires by biologist Jim Steele in the same issue.

See also Crockford, S.J. 2017. Testing the hypothesis that routine sea ice coverage of 3-5 mkm2 results in a greater than 30% decline in population size of polar bears (Ursus maritimus). PeerJ Preprints 2 March 2017. Doi: 10.7287/peerj.preprints.2737v3 Open access. https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.2737v3

Details on the USFWS decision on the walrus is below. Note that like the walrus, if ESA protection on the polar bear was reversed, the bears would still be strongly protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (as they have been since 1972), and like the walrus, polar bears have shown an ability to adapt that was not foreseen in 2007 (as evidenced by their failure to die off droves in response to recent sea ice declines).

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Scientists and media continue to spread misinformation about polar bears & walrus

“Lies” might be a better word to characterize the misinformation that scientists and the media have been busy spreading to the public over the last few weeks. The information is either known to be false (by scientists whose job it is to relay facts honestly) or is easily shown to be false (by journalists whose job it is to fact-check their stories).

Churchill polar bear and walrus 2017

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Breaking: Pacific walrus is not threatened with extinction says US Fish & Wildlife

“U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said they cannot determine with certainty that walruses are likely to become endangered “in the foreseeable future,” which the agency defines as the year 2060.”

(CBC, 4 October 2017).

Walrus female Point Lay Alaska_Ryan Kingsbery USGS

“The agency said in 2011 that walruses deserve the additional protection of being declared threatened, but delayed a listing because other species were a higher priority.

The agency revised the decision based on new information, said Patrick Lemons, the agency’s marine mammals management chief.

“Walrus demonstrated much more ability to change their behaviours than previously thought,” Lemons said. Their ability to rest on shorelines before swimming to foraging areas makes the threat of less sea ice uncertain, he added.”

UPDATES below:

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Pacific walrus haulout two weeks early, US gov’t agency blames “earliest” ice loss

Walrus 2012 July USGSThis year’s baseless media frenzy over walrus survival and loss of summer sea ice blamed on human-caused global warming was initiated by a press release from US Fish and Wildlife last week (16 August 2017, pdf here: “Pacific walruses haul out near Point Lay earlier than in previous years“). Quote below, my bold:

In the first week of August, several hundred Pacific walruses were observed on a barrier island near the Native Village of Point Lay, a small, Iñupiaq community on the northwest coast of Alaska. This is the earliest date yet for the haulout to form…This year, sea ice has retreated beyond the continental shelf earlier than in previous years

But is this all true? In a word, no — and it didn’t take much research to uncover the truth.

UPDATE 24 August 2017: A few minutes after this post was published, I became aware that just yesterday, 20 conservation activist organizations, lead by the Center for Biological Diversity (who led the polar bear listing charge) issued a press release regarding a letter (pdf here) pressuring the US Fish and Wildlife Service to list Pacific walrus as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Apparently, a decision must be made by the end of September on whether to actively list walrus or not. The text below has been amended to reflect this development.
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USGS report on history of walrus haulouts leaves out correlation with population size

Walrus researchers from the US Geological Survey have a new report on the history of walrus haulouts in the Chukchi and Bering Seas – yet their media efforts (via press release and interviews) fail to mention the relationship between fluctuating size of walrus haulouts and fluctuating walrus population size that is evident in that history. In fact, overall population size is not mentioned at all.

Walrus 2012 July USGS

Two articles came out over the weekend that announced the results of this new joint US-Russian initiative [PBS, Walrus beaching in Alaska might not be as harmful as it looks. Here’s why – 31 July 2016 and ADN, Alaska and Russia join forces to create 160-year database of walrus haulouts – 31 July 2016]

But neither articles nor the new USGS paper they are touting (Fischback et al. 2016) mention the huge summer/fall haulouts of females, calves, and juveniles that were documented in the 1970s that coincided with the huge population size at that time, which crashed in the 1980s.

Only now has the population grown (to at least 200,000) to the point that huge haulouts are again being reported – conservation has done it’s job. But when walrus numbers get too high the animals out-strip their food source and numbers plummet, as they did in the 1980s (Fay et al. 1989; Garlich-Miller et al. 2011). See my fully referenced summary paper, Crockford 2014 (On The Beach: Walrus Haulouts are Nothing New).

Here’s the concern: When (not if) a population crash happens again, will it be blamed on global warming rather than natural causes? According to the PBS article:

“The database is supposed to help federal officials with conservation, especially as more ships start sailing through the newly open waters. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is determining whether walrus should be listed as a threatened species.[my bold]

My GWPF video on the issue (The Walrus Fuss) below:

See excerpts from the USGS database below, with a map:

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