He has met cannibals in Papua New Guinea, played with mountain gorillas in Rwanda and has several flower and animal species named after him. In a career of more than sixty years, naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough’s name is synonymous with utterly absorbing wildlife documentaries, including 1979’s Life on Earth, which became a yardstick for quality wildlife show production.
Sir David returned to our screens at the end of last year with the much-anticipated Planet Earth II – and the nation fell in love with him all over again. To mark his birthday on May 8, we celebrate the career of one of Britain’s best-loved personalities and one of the most travelled people in human history. Just don’t call him a "national treasure"...word on the street is it’s not his thing.
In 2015, the first living species native to the UK was named after him; the Attenborough’s hawkweed or Hieracium attenboroughianum is a wildflower discovered in the Brecon Beacons by plant taxonomist Dr Tim Rich.
At a fundraiser at London’s Science Museum in 2015, he expressed his concern about people’s lack of contact with the natural world. “Over half the world’s population is urbanised and the thought that some children may grow up not looking at a pond or knowing how plants grow is a terrible thing.”
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.
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.”
Yes, sir, it would. Happy birthday David Attenborough.
Top image © Denis Tabler/Shutterstock