David Attenborough: Knight who fights for the world

February 3, 2017


David Attenborough has been bringing his passion for wildlife into our lounge rooms for more than 60 years.

Now 90, Sir David is currently touring Australia with his live show A Quest for Life, beginning its Australian tour on 4 February in Brisbane and concluding in Perth on 16 February.

This is one nonagenarian who thrives on keeping busy and travelling the globe, in the cause of maintaining the world as an environment for his beloved wild animals and plants as they battle the impact of humankind.

Considered a national treasure in his homeland of Britain, the passionate naturalist spent his childhood on the campus of Leicester’s University College, where his father was principal, along with his two brothers, John and the late actor Sir Richard Attenborough.

His interest in the natural world started at the age of seven, collecting fossils, stones and other natural specimens, and it received a boost when then 11-year-old David heard that the university zoology department needed a large supply of newts, which young David was happy to supply, charging threepence a newt. Unbeknown to those paying for his newts, they were easily collected from a pond situated less than five metres from the department.

This go-getter attitude has enabled Sir David to become one of the world’s greatest environmentalists.

Gaining a degree in natural sciences, specialising in geology and zoology at Cambridge University in 1945, his first job was editing children’s science textbooks. His first foray into television was filling in as a presenter on Zoo Quest in 1954, and thus began several decades of promoting natural science in the media.

On the personal front, Sir David married Jane in 1950s, a partnership that lasted 47 years until her death in 1997. The couple was blessed with two children, Jane and Robert, and therein lies the Australian connection—his son Dr Robert Attenborough has been a senior lecturer in bioanthropology at Canberra’s Australian National University. 

A lifetime of television programs on natural history and saving the planet followed, leading to a knighthood in 1985. He is synonymous with his series Life On Earth, and has been photographed in close communion with many animals, from large snakes to gorillas and chimpanzees, and has more than 15 species of small animals and plants named after him. 

While he has had so many triumphs in his life, losing wife Jane in 1997 was tragic, as he was filming in New Zealand when she collapsed with a brain haemorrhage. He made it home to have her squeeze his hand before she died the next day. In his memoir Life On Air, Sir David shared his grief, saying, ‘The focus of my life, the anchor had gone… Now I was lost.’

Gradually he found the strength to continue and throw himself into his work, rejecting ideas of retirement.

 ‘If I was earning my money by hewing coal, I would be very glad indeed to stop. But I’m not. I’m swanning round the world looking at the most fabulously interesting things. Such good fortune,’ he told theguardian.com.

The Bible talks of good and faithful servants, and Sir David Attenborough deserves that accolade for his dedication to taking care of the wonderful world that God has given us. 

Tags: Salvation Army Australia

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