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Netflix defends graphic walrus death scene in new documentary

Netflix has come out to defend its newly released documentary series “Our Planet” after zoologists and animal lovers are calling some scenes from the walrus film “tragedy porn.”

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Netflix released “Our Planet”, its first nature documentary, on April 5. Narrated by David Attenborough, the eight-part series focuses on the various habitats around the world, including the deep seas,  sundry jungles in South America, expansive landscapes of Africa and the glacial Arctic wilderness. One segment from the Arctic portion of the film has been deemed disturbing by many and inaccurate by one zoologist.

During one of the eight episodes, footage shows the daily lives of walruses in Russia, where ice levels have dissolved. The production team captures a herd of walruses attempting to scale a cliff near the ocean that was once covered in ice. In the midst of that, several walruses fell from the ledge to the ground below leaving them dead on impact or critically injured.

One of the most noted detractors of the walrus scene is Susan Crockford, a zoologist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. She wrote an article for the Siberia Times in 2017 when the film was still in production, according to an article by the Telegraph. She argued that the narration’s suggestion that ice dissipation— not preying polar bears — drove the walruses off the cliff is inaccurate. She referred to the scenes as “tragedy porn.”

“This powerful story is fiction and emotional manipulation at its worst,” Crockford wrote. “The walruses shown in this Netflix film were almost certainly driven over the cliff by polar bears during a well-publicised incident in 2017, not because they were confused by a combination of shrinking ice cover and their own poor eyesight.”

According to a Complex report, Netflix is standing behind its film’s authenticity. Netflix says it worked with a Russian biologist with more than 30 years of experience working on the coastline. That expert confirmed for the film’s producers that climate change has forced walruses to gather on unsafe land masses that are not suitable for their survival.

In Attenborough’s narration, he explained that more than 100,000 walruses were gathering on a lone beach “out of desperation.”

Online, many expressed sadness and shock in response to the scenes. 

Others warned potential viewers not to watch, because the scene could leave them “extremely traumatized.”

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