Why are walruses throwing themselves off high cliffs?

Credit: Video Screenshot YouTube/ Media Fox Tr

Netflix’s recent animal documentary, Our Planet narrated by David Attenborough, contains a shocking scene that sends shivers down your spine.  In a section that looks at the effects of retreating ice sheets on animal populations,  viewers witness a walrus as it throws itself off a cliff, falling from a fair height into other walruses on the shore line.  But how is this possible? 

Dizzying fall

The documentary Our Planet that has recently been broadcast by Netflix has received good reviews.  Although the programme reveals many of Earth’s marvels, it also doesn’t forget to show  viewers some of the more unpleasant and shocking realities due to climate change.  There is one scene in particular which is visible at the bottom of the article.  In this section of the documentary viewers see a walrus clinging onto a steep cliff before taking a leap and falling 80 metres  before reaching the ground.

David Attenborough explains that walruses don’t have a very good eyesight out of water.  However they are able to smell the sea and can naturally make the decision to return to the ocean when they are hungry.   However how are walruses reaching these heights in the first place?

Credits: Pixnio

Impacts of climate change

Walruses are being affected by melting ice in the Bering Straight.  As a result, the walruses are trying to find shelter on firm ground.  However the shores appear very abruptly and as a result the walruses need to climb steep cliffs that the would normally never go near.  Descending the cliff face is a difficult task for walruses who already have bad eyesight out of the water.  In the end they throw themselves off the cliff in desperation as they can smell the ocean and can hear other walruses beneath them.

This bitter assessment places walruses among one of the animals the most affected by climate change.  Walruses live mostly on ice where they can rest when they are not hunting for food.  However with melting ice, walruses are trying to reach solid ground and it is at this moment that they are the most vulnerable.

In 2017, populations of walruses and caribou dangerously declined in Arctic regions of North America.  In fact the Arctic Ice Report card noted that, herd populations of both caribou and wild reindeer living across the Arctic tundra have reduced in numbers by nearly 50% over the last two decades.

Here is the scene from Netflix’s Our Planet documentary:

Sources : The Daily Mail – 7 sur 7

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