Our Planet filmmakers discuss capturing “heartbreaking” walrus scene on camera

A new behind the scenes video show the filmmakers watching on as the animals fall to their deaths from a sheer cliff

Pacific walrus rests at the top of 70m cliffs in Russia. Facing the sea, it can sense the ocean and other walrus below. When the time comes to return to the sea, many walrus do not work out how to go back the way they came and so walk off the cliffs in an attempt to get back to the sea. Over 700 casualties were washed up along the shores in 2017 (Sophie Lanfear / Silverback/Netflix)

Netflix has shared a news behind-the-scenes video from Our Planet, showing the moment filmmakers captured the heartbreaking footage of walruses falling to their deaths from a narrow cliff edge.

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The segment occurs in the second episode of the natural history series, and shows how several walruses, stranded on a cliff top, confused by a combination of shrinking ice cover and their own poor eyesight, fall from “heights they never should have scaled”, as narrator David Attenborough puts it.

The behind-the-scenes clip below shows the harrowing effect filming the scene had on the crew.

“They’re either being killed falling or crushing each other, because there’s several thousand crammed on to little tiny bits of beaches,” cameraman Jamie McPherson says.

“It’s the sad reality of climate change,” producer Sophie Lanfear says, through tears. “It’s just so heartbreaking.”

Watch the Our Planet video below.

Polar scientist Anatoly Kochnev helped the Our Planet crew film the disturbing walrus behaviour.

“Earlier on when there was ice, the walruses did not need this place,” he explained. “The more walruses there are, the more they find themselves climbing up high cliffs and rocks. So it is clear that walruses are experiencing problems due to the ice loss. They are meant to live on the ice, now they have lost this ice platform essential for their everyday life in the Chukchi sea.”

He added, “Many scientists blame this on global warming. I’m not a climate specialist, but the fact is, over the last 34 years the ice has just disappeared before my very eyes, and the animals, their natural habitat has changed. That fact is undeniable.”

Producer/director Sophie Lanfear comes face-to-face with a Pacific walrus during filming for Our Planet (Netflix)
Producer/director Sophie Lanfear comes face to face with a Pacific walrus during filming for Our Planet (Netflix)

Attenborough is set to return to the BBC following the release of the Netflix series. The natural history broadcaster is set to bring an “unflinching” climate change film to the BBC later this month, which will examine “the science of climate change and the potential solutions to this global threat”.

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Our Planet is available on Netflix now