In the autumn of 2017, about 250 walruses in Russia, having climbed up to rocky slopes overlooking a beach, just walked over the edge.
Usually, gravity is no enemy of the walrus. When these animals encounter hard surfaces, they rise up to meet them, hauling their two-ton bulks onto floating pieces of ice. When they fall, they flop off those low platforms into the accommodating water. So you might imagine that a walrus, peering off a tall cliff, doesn’t really understand what will happen to it when it steps off. It doesn’t expect to plummet for 260 feet, cartwheel through the air, bounce off the rocks, and crash abruptly. Climb, plummet, cartwheel, bounce: These are not walrus-associated verbs.
A walrus falls from a cliff overlooking a Russian beach.SOPHIE LANFEAR
Netflix’s acclaimed Our Planet series has come under fire for “tragedy porn” over images of walruses falling to their deaths from cliff tops, allegedly because of climate change.
The Our Planet footage, narrated by David Attenborough, showed dozens of the animals climbing up 80-meter-high outcrops in northeast Russia because of a lack of sea ice.
They were shown plunging onto the rocks below, with hundreds of dead animals piled on the shoreline. A voice-over by Attenborough claimed their poor eyesight made it hard for them to return safely to the ocean.
But a Canadian zoologist has dismissed the claims as “contrived nonsense” and said the walruses were most likely driven over the cliffs by polar bears.
Susan Crockford, of the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, told The Telegraph UK: “This powerful story is fiction and emotional manipulation at its worst.”
The polar bear expert said that at the time the footage was shot in 2017 at Kozhevnikova Cape, Ryrkaypiy, in eastern Russia, the town was being besieged by polar bears.
According to The Siberian Times, 20 bears had surrounded the town, attracted by 5,000 walruses that had appeared at a local protection zone.
La géologie, une science plus que passionnante … et diverse