Blue Planet: Executive producer defends sea turtle hatchling release


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Media captionA baby turtle was snatched by a seagull as it was being released to the sea.

If you were watching Blue Planet Live on Sunday night you may have been left a bit deflated as the programme came to an end.

In the final few moments, six green sea turtle hatchlings were released onto the beach, before one of them was snapped up by a hungry seagull.

“What happened and the way it played out was unfortunate”, Blue Planet Live’s executive producer Roger Webb says.

“It’s not for us to interfere.”

“With a predator with such quick wits and ability – they’re always going have their eyes on the prize.”

Scientist Janine Ferguson released the hatchlings on Heron Island in Australia, along with presenter Liz Bonnin.

The Blue Planet Live team said the green sea turtles had been rescued from their nest chamber and would have died if the scientists working on the island hadn’t unearthed them for release.

Liz Bonnin told viewers, “They’re left to their own devices here, to the elements, to the predators that await them and also to the ever increasing man-made threats”.

Shortly after the seagull swooped in, viewers tweeted they were left “fuming” because the presenter didn’t intervene.

One tweeted: “Watching Blue Planet Live showed us how they help the little turtles that got stuck in the nest and then let a seagull come and pinch one of them and didn’t even attempt to stop it!!”

That’s nature, according to the scientists,

“The hatchlings form a major part of the gulls’ diet,” Roger Webb explains.

“As cruel as it may appear, it is nature doing what nature does, and the hatchling will become important food for the growing chicks of that gull.”

But some viewers argued it wasn’t fair for the programme to release the hatchlings when it was light and in full view of predators.

Roger says the reason they were released at that time was because the hatchlings’ siblings had emerged 48 hours earlier as first light was emerging.

“We were taking those left in the nest onto the beach, mirroring the daylight situation their siblings had emerged into.”

Green sea turtles can live for up to 100 years but they face many challenges if they are to make it.

These include predators, plastic, poaching, pollution and fishing.

It’s estimated that only around one in 1,000 turtle hatchlings make it to adulthood.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sea turtles face a number of predators as they make their way to the ocean

It’s not the first time the BBC has been criticised over its coverage of nature.

In 2013, Sir David Attenborough defended the decision the film a baby elephant dying on the programme Africa.

He said he’d resolved to always be an observer rather than a participant.

Last year, it was revealed that a group of penguins, trapped in a ravine, were rescued by crew members on the BBC nature series Dynasties.

At the time, the show’s executive producer defended the decision and said that Sir David Attenborough would have done the same.

“There were no animals going to suffer by intervening. It wasn’t dangerous. You weren’t touching the animals and it was just felt by doing this… they had the opportunity to not have to keep slipping down the slope.”, Mike Gunton told the BBC.

Watch Blue Planet Live on the BBC iplayer.

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