5. Baby gorillas tried to steal his shoes
“Bliss,” is how Sir David describes one of his most memorable moments in wildlife broadcasting. Filming baby gorillas in Rwanda for the Life on Earth series in 1979, he recalls how two baby gorillas try to take off his shoes. The footage is truly heartwarming.
6. He loves wildlife, but he’s really not a fan of rats…
Not many people are, to be fair, but he’s really scared. In his book, New Life Stories, he writes: “I don’t mean that I mildly dislike them as I dislike, let us say, maggots. I mean that if a rat appears in a room, I have to work hard to prevent myself from jumping on the nearest table.”
7. He can do a mean wolf impression
During filming for BBC's 2002 Life of Mammals documentary series, David Attenborough shows his aptitude for impressions with a remarkable howl. It’s spot-on.
He manages to communicate with a pack of wolves who assume it’s one of their kind and proceed to congregate in full view of the cameras, before they begin the long and arduous winter hunt for tasty elk.
8. He’s a unique BAFTA winner
Sir David is the only person who has won BAFTA awards for programmes made in black and white, colour, HD and 3D – testament to an enduring career. In fact, his Flying Monsters documentary all about the pterosaurs (flying reptiles), was the first 3D programme ever to win a BAFTA.
9. He has a record number of British honorary degrees
With more honorary degrees from British universities than any other person – 32 at last count – he tops a list which beats Nobel Prize winners, Olympians and world leaders. These degrees are awarded by universities to recognise the work carried out by an individual – no exams or coursework required…
10. Fossils were his first love
“I’ve always loved fossils,” he told the Radio Times in January 2016 after a trip to Patagonia to film the newly discovered 8ft thigh bone of a dinosaur species, believed to have weighed 70 tons (it was as tall as two African elephants and possessed a 40ft-long neck).
The young David grew up in Leicestershire where iron limestone contains prehistoric sea creatures. He’d often cycle up to twenty miles to the quarries and smash boulders to discover the fossils. “It’s the first time it’s seen the sunshine in 150 million years and you’re the first human being ever to have seen it. I think that’s pretty exciting.”
11. He has no interest in retirement
At the age of 91, with seven continents, multiple awards and countless programmes under his belt, his enthusiasm, curiosity, and desire to connect humans to the natural world remain unabated. When asked about retirement, he’s often replied, “It would be boring, wouldn’t it?”
Yes, sir, it would. Happy birthday David Attenborough.