The legend that is Attenborough……

Posted on December 8, 2010


There aren’t many people in the world whose name is a global phenomenon. Sir David Attenborough is certainly one of those who has top ranking, especially as he is adored by both young and old.

The first time I interviewed Sir David was a few years ago at the Natural History Museum’s butterfly house. I was there for Channel Five News to cut a piece for the evening bulletin. He was there trying to raise  the profile of how important these insects are as both pollinators, and indicators, regarding climate change and the condition of the landscape. I have a photograph of both of us on my phone; except it doesn’t look like me. It was a particularly bad hair day (ladies with curly hair are likely to sympathise more here), because for the 20 minutes I was in there, the tropical temperature and humidity had worked its magic and left me looking like the one of the members of the Jackson Five.

On Monday night, minus the Afro, I managed to have a tête-a-tête with Sir David again, this time before he took to the stage to host the Hope4Apes event at the Lyceum Theatre in Covent Garden. The event was organised by the Ape Alliance – a committee made up of representatives from a range of wildlife and conservation charities. Its aim was to raise awareness about these magnificent creatures and how dangerously close to extinction all of the apes are.

The great apes are from the family Pongidae – they include gorillas; chimpanzees; bonobos; and orangutans. The gibbons often get forgotten as a species of ape because they are sometimes referred to as the “lesser ape” (due to anatomical structure). They are categorised in a separate family called Hylobatidae – which also includes siamangs.

All of these primates are crucial in helping to maintain equilibrium in the forests’s ecosystem because they are excellent seed dispersers. If their habitat is destroyed through deforestation and degradation, then they will cease to exist forever. There is no point saying we can stick them in a zoo or a sanctuary and breed them for future generations; because a life in captivity is a sad existence and most apes do not reproduce well or indeed cope in those condition. Reintroduction to the wild would be very difficult especially if they are born in captivity because they would have no survival skills in the wild and would die out quickly.

If the forests continue to disappear at the current rate, then climatologists and meteorologists, who have been doing the number crunching believe this is going to affect us all. Yes, even you city dwelling folk. The rain we get here is a by-product of the rainforest. This is what I wrote in a comment to a post with regards to how important sustainable logging is:

“Without the rainforest to recycle rain, precipitation will decline exponentially and it would threaten all of us with unprecedented drought, and a worse case scenario is that it would lead to desertification. Climatologists and meteorologists believe that air currents in the atmosphere are formed through differences in temperature that bring about heat gradients, with colder, denser air sinking and hotter, lighter air rising. That mass of air is then drawn over the oceans in the form of trade winds. I’m not telling people to become tree-huggers, but these animals and those forests have more of a function that just being pretty and nice to look at on holiday. They make living on the earth possible, and we all have a responsibility to respect Mother Nature.”

So back to Attenborough…’s incredible to think he has been and is still working 60 years on, quite a feat in this day and age of reality television bollocks. His ability to capture all of our imagination was reflected in the reception he received when he entered stage left. Whooping and whistling, cheering and a thunderous applause – deservedly so. The guest speakers he introduced were Jane Goodall; Ian Redmond; Birute Galdikas; Jo Thompson and Chanee.

The key messages they left the audience with was, don’t buy products that contain palm oil, try to buy furniture that has been sustainably logged (difficult i know) and give time or money if you can, in any way possible.

Sir David is a pro when speaking on camera, however due to old age, his hearing is going slightly. There is a moment when bends down out of frame because he is straining to hear me with the din outside the room. He is not admiring my shoes, although those of you who know me, appreciated my penchant for footwear. So enough from me, I’ll hand you over to Sir David.

You’ll also notice Dr Jane Goodall in the background, how’s that for framing up in less than 5 seconds! (if you receive this post via email, it’ll redirect you to the actual blog, because of the video, so click on the link at the top of the page.)