Nature film crew abandons 'interference rule' to help dying penguins

A BBC documentary crew in Antarctica abandoned their “no interference” rule to save a group of baby penguins.

Though it is unusual for the film crew on famed naturalist Sir David Attenborough’s "Dynasties" series to interfere with nature, the crew’s members decided to intervene on Sunday’s episode after several Emperor penguins and their chicks got trapped inside an icy ravine and cut off from their colony.

The crew decided to build a stepped ramp for the stranded penguins to climb to safety after seeing some chicks in the colony die from extreme weather as temperatures reached a low of minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit, CBS News reported.

“We opted to intervene passively," the show's director, Will Lawson, said in a quote seen by CBS.  "Once we'd dug that little ramp, which took very little time, we left it to the birds. We were elated when they decided to use it."

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Attenborough, who has drawn criticism in the past for not interfering with nature, also said he would have broken the unwritten rule in a recent video published by Country Living

"It's very rare for the film crew to intervene," he said in the video. "But they realize that they might be able to save at least some of these birds, simply by digging a few steps in the ice."

Attenborough previously defended a BBC documentary’s decision to film the death of a baby elephant in Africa in 2013. At the time, he said it was "very important" for the film crew to not interfere, according to CBS News.

"That particular creature was dying of starvation, [and it was] far too dangerous to intervene," Mike Gunton, "Dynasties" executive producer, told the BBC. "If you tried to go there, the mother would probably have attacked you.”

"If you fed it, it would survive for maybe another hour," Gunton added. "But because there was no food anywhere, ultimately — and this is David's point — ultimately, you are just prolonging the misery and you let nature take its course." 

However, Gunton told BBC Radio 5 Live that he felt it was it was justified for the nature film crew to intervene with the penguins.

"It's such an unusual circumstance to do this," he said in the interview. "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."