BBC Film Producer Accused of Harassing Polar Bears
This video footage, from Gordon Buchanan's documentary "The Polar Bear Family and Me," is hard to forget. It's a chilling visual of a polar bear trying to claw its way into a plexiglass box protecting the filmmaker.
While viewers around the world found it fascinating (it received almost two million plays in two months), Norwegian officials were not amused.
The video was shot in Svalbard, the northernmost part of Norway, where polar bears are protected under strict environmental regulations. The bears are a vulnerable species, with only 20,000 to 25,000 individuals remaining in the world.
After the documentary aired in January, one official said the filmmakers were “disturbing” the bear in question. Another official, Svalbard District Governor Lars Erik Alfheim, sent a letter to Roberts, detailing the offense and its 50,000 Norwegian krone penalty—the equivalent of an $8,500 fine.
Roberts refuted the claim and would not accept the fine, according to the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.
The incident is part of a larger, challenging trend for Norwegian officials who must balance conservation with a rising interest in wildlife film footage. Roberts and his team are one of multiple production crews coming to Arctic Norway to film these animals. An estimated 3,000 polar bears are believed to live on the islands of Svalbard and Franz Josef Land.