"The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?"
-Sir David Attenborough
Today we celebrate the 91st birthday of every nature lovers' favorite TV star, Sir David Attenborough. Not a star, you say? Hogwash. About half of my DVD shelf is taken up with his handiwork - Planet Earth, Blue Planet, Life of Birds, Life of Mammals, Life in Cold Blood, and so on.
Not a lot of people realize this, but Sir David began his animal-filming experience with zoos. After filming a few segments at the London Zoo, Attenborough and one of the curators hatched a scheme to start filming some of the zoo's collecting expeditions; this, of course, was back in the day when a significant number of zoo animals were still obtained from the wild. The result was Sir David's first series, Zoo Quest, taking place in rainforests across the world, from Sierra Leone to New Guinea, and included the first television footage ever of Komodo dragons. The quest for the elusive white-necked rockfowl of West Africa proved such a crowd pleaser that, as the series was airing, episode by episode, over BBC, Attenborough found himself being stopped by strangers on the street, wanting to know if the bird would be caught in the end or not.
Over the course of his 91 years, Sir David has produced some beautiful work with BBC, featuring animals, habitats, and behaviors never filmed before. His greatest acheivement, however, has been shining a light on some of our planet's most extraordinary creatures and sounding a call to arms to protect them. I think back to all of the excitement that swirled around the release of Planet Earth II a few months ago, and hearing people who I've never heard express any interest in animals before talking about it excitedly. That is Sir David's gift - taking a magical world and helping everyone else understand the magic of it. Hopefully, he has another 90-odd years of magic left in him.