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Netflix documentary sheds light on effects of climate change

by By Margaret Stewart - News Editor
Tue, Apr 16th 2019 10:00 pm
hazardous habitat Recently released Netflix documentary `Our Planet` showed some of the tragic effects of climate change. The disturbing footage shows walruses (above) falling to their deaths after climbing rocky surfaces to find a place to rest. Their lack of depth perception and desire to join other walruses to hunt is what drives them to come to the edge of the cliffs, ultimately causing them to fall.
hazardous habitat Recently released Netflix documentary "Our Planet" showed some of the tragic effects of climate change. The disturbing footage shows walruses (above) falling to their deaths after climbing rocky surfaces to find a place to rest. Their lack of depth perception and desire to join other walruses to hunt is what drives them to come to the edge of the cliffs, ultimately causing them to fall.

This season of “Our Planet” has sparked controversy, as it focuses upon the negative impact humans have had upon the Earth’s climate. Each episode exemplifies how animal habitats are responding negatively to human interactions in order to bring awareness to how the relationship could be improved. 

Episode 2, “Frozen Worlds,” focuses on the arctic animals that live around the North and South Poles like polar bears, penguins and narwhals. 

Most notably, the episode highlights how a walrus population living in northeast Russia has been steadily decreasing. This is due to the sea ice on which they normally reside melting away, resulting in the walruses searching for convenient places to rest near their feeding grounds. 

In an interview with The Guardian, researcher Sophie Lanfear said that since the sea ice has been retreating to the north, all the walruses have left is one island where about 100,000 of them reside.

The narrator, David Attenborough, says that since every square inch of the island is taken up by the walruses, the only way for the animals to get on land or cross the island is to climb over other animals or to stampede. When they do so, the walruses risk crushing other animals, along with their young, to death.

“Under these conditions, walruses are a danger to themselves,” Attenborough says.

In order to find space to live and eat, the walruses are going to extreme lengths to find some more room. Scaling 80-meter cliffs, the walruses are out of their element, as the rocky cliffs are vastly different for a 1 ton animal to climb when compared to the sea ice they are supposed to reside on. 

“Watching the walruses climb the cliffs to escape the crush was harrowing,” Lanfear said. “I never imagined walruses were capable of climbing that high. They’d be on the edge for hours, looking over, teetering, and eventually you could see them wanting to join the ones going off to sea. So they would just walk off the cliff.”

Some scientists, including Alaska Department of Fish and Game employee Lori Quakenbush, believe that since walruses are social by nature, it is unlikely they were trying to isolate themselves from the larger walrus group. 

“Walruses thrive on crowds and haul out in tight groups, even when space is available,” Quakenbush said. 

This confusion over the isolation came from the way in which the documentary was compiled, as the few scenes were actually shot over a weeks worth of time. Furthermore, the fact that those on the cliff could sense their comrades going to feed in the water may have caused the walruses on the cliff to fall as they all usually feed as one large group.

According to TMZ, Netflix worked with a large team during the making of this documentary which included a Russian biologist who has been researching the coastline for 35 years.

The walruses are able to sense that there are others below in the ocean, but they don’t have the depth perception they need in order to sense the dangerous elevation they are at. 

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

Attenborough says a walrus’ eyesight is significantly worse on land than it is in the water. When they climb these cliffs in order to find a suitable living space, they can not find a safe way back down in order to hunt food so they can survive. 

“Many just die on impact, or they crush the ones they fall on below,” Lanfear said. “Some have internal injuries, get to the sea, and wash up later. This is the sad reality of climate change. They’d be on the ice if they could.” 

For more information about the dangers of climate change and what you can do to help control it, please visit: climate.nasa.gov as well as www.worldwildlife.org.

 

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