Glossy wildlife film documentaries can cover up the realities

Wildlife documentary makers do wonderful work. The quality of their filming is astonishing sometimes. It looks unbelievable and sometimes it actually is. I guess they have to produce glossy, perhaps even sanitised, versions of reality because this is what the customer wants to see. This is changing as there is a greater awareness of environmental pollution and the destruction of nature through human activity. The environment is making its way to the top of the agenda not just just for politicians but for the public as well. The coronavirus pandemic has somewhat heightened awareness although it has put climate change on the backburner regrettably.

Misha and cubs
Misha and cubs. Photo in the public domain.

There is an interesting example of how wildlife documentary makers can portray reality in a distorted or glossed up manner. It concerns the life of a much loved and well filmed polar bear whose name is Misha. She had two cubs Light and Lucky. She starred in a film about her life “Queen without Land” in April 2013. You will see her striding through the wilderness of the Arctic Circle. She is the most photographed polar bear in the world and a star of wildlife documentaries made by leading filmmakers and aired by leading broadcasters.

Misha has appeared in two documentaries for the BBC, “Earth’s Greatest Spectacles” and Sir David Attenborough’s “The Hunt”. She was seen on Netflix’s “Our Planet”. In this program she appeared on a poster with her cubs after both had been digitally transposed onto a photograph taken in the Arctic.

She has been computer-generated. So for example in “Our Planet” a collar attached to her was edited out. In the main title image used for advertising one of her cubs had been removed while the other was placed closer to her. They were cut and pasted onto a scenic glacial landscape from Antarctica.

There was controversy not long ago when in Sir David Attenborough’s “Frozen Planet” it showed cubs being born in the wild. In fact their birth was filmed in a Dutch animal park.

Although Misha’s public profile is glossy and fine, she appears to have lived quite a tragic life. Her public profile is of a polar bear living in the wilderness but the truth of the matter is that she is content to roam around tourist areas in the Spitsbergen archipelago (see map above). The tourist traffic deters other bears but not Misha. She has become tolerant of people which as it happens has allowed her to prey on seals with little competition. She sometimes breaks into cabins searching for food and she has even used filmmakers to her advantage because the seals become distracted which allows her to attack them.

In a very sad and ironic twist, people have been responsible for the death of two of her daughters. Lucky, which I mentioned above, was shot dead after she attacked a Czech tourist in his tent. In a perverted twist, in my view, Lucky has been stuffed, renamed Nina, and is now in the lobby of the Oslo department of defence.

Lucky’s sister, Light, died after she was tranquilized by scientists from the Norwegian Polar Institute. She was being monitored.

I find the story said to be honest. In fact the wider issue regarding polar bears is also extremely sad. The Artic is melting and polar bears need that ice to remain in place to allow them to hunt successfully. I recall, not long ago, a polar bear swimming over 100 miles to find food. The poor creature died of starvation, emaciated and bewildered by her circumstances. Global warming is genuine in my view and I think polar bears will be one of the first iconic species to decline into extinction in the wild.

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