Sir David Attenborough: 60 Years in the Wild

sumantran rhino

By Georgie McDonald

Sir David Attenborough has graced our television screens for the last 60 years. He has become the global advocate for natural history programmes and it is said that he is the most travelled person in history. So where does this legendary public figure get his extraordinary energy from?

Despite celebrating his 60th year with the BBC and being 86 years old, he shows no signs of slowing down. This November will premiere three documentaries in which he explores how wildlife, filmmaking and our understanding of the natural world have evolved over the past six decades. Ever since his first natural history programme, Zoo Quest, he has made it his mission to show the world the truly amazing species found in the depths of the sea, forest and desserts.

Having collected fossils and rocks since he was a child, Attenborough attended Clare College, Cambridge on a scholarship to study geology and zoology. After leaving university, he went straight into filming documentaries.In those days Television was not the significant media platform which it is today, as most people in the UK did not own a TV at home. After being in the navy for two years, he failed to get a job at BBC Radio. However, in 1952 he landed a job in the BBC Talks department and only 5 years later, gave rise to the infamous programme, Zoo Quest. Attenborough had started to expose the British population to wildlife programmes and after becoming the controller of BBC Two, not only did he introduce colour television to the public, but he also was given the opportunity to travel and show the public parts of the world which had never been caught on camera before. As he was still stuck in administration at the BBC and in line for the next Director General, he was not able to dedicate sufficient time to making the programmes he loved. Attenborough therefore left his post to start working on The Life Series, which has now become a collection of eight documentaries from 1979-2005. This phenomenal feat has taken Attenborough from the Galapagos Islands to Antarctica and everywhere in between.

On top of his television success, Attenborough is also a global spokesperson for the danger which our natural world faces. His recent series, Frozen Planet, showed the public how human impacts are destroying habitats and poisoning species. Despite being a cheerful and jovial man, Attenborough isn’t hopeful for the future of our planet: “No, I’m not. There are three times as many people living on this world as when I started making television programs. They’ve all got to live somewhere. They’ve all got to find food. They all want to drive motorcars. All those things require land and space. The only place it can come from is the natural world. So the natural world is under increasing pressure” he told Time Magazine. The fantastic insights that his documentaries have brought us have highlighted just how unique, rare and individual our world and its species truly are. Attenborough has used his ‘star status’ to help raise awareness regarding the poor situation which the world is in today.

Things which you probably didn’t know about Sir David:

  • David’s boss once said he was not allowed to be an interviewer on screen as his teeth were too big
  • To make the series Life of Birds he travelled 256,000 miles – that’s the equivalent of going around the world 10 times!
  • He received his knighthood in 1985, followed by 19 other awards and medals, to this present day
  • Surprisingly, he is not vegetarian!
  • Early on at his time at the BBC, he produced a programme about folk music
  • His dream is to film a giant squid – “I would give my right arm – well, maybe my left – a giant squid to be filmed in the depths of the ocean”
  • His favourite ecosystem is in Borneo
  • If he was reincarnated he would come back as a sloth

 Attenborough’s Ark – the top ten animals he would save:

  • Sumatran Rhino
  • Black Lion Tamarin
  • Hispaniolan Solenodon
  • Darwin’s Frog
  • Sunda Pangolin
  • Priam’s Birdwing Butterfly
  • Northern Quoll
  • Marvellous Spatuletail
  • Olm
  • Venus’ Flower Basket

As seen in the BBC Wildlife Magazine.

Make sure you don’t miss: Attenborough’s Ark (November 2012) Attenborough: 60 Years in the Wild (November 2012), Kingdom of Plants 3D (2012) and Galapagos 3D (2013)

Photography: 1) Willem v Strien on Flickr (CC BY 2.0). 2) TVtropes (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0). 3) Ruth Flickr on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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2 Responses to Sir David Attenborough: 60 Years in the Wild

  1. Jonathan Ellis says:

    Great article Georgie, thank you very much – Didn’t realise he might be the most travelled person ever ….

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