With his trademark sense of wonder about the natural world, Sir David Attenborough has a uniquely ageless personality. Yet, incredibly, he celebrates his 90th birthday on Sunday 8 May.
Sir David has been part of WWF’s history from the very beginning. He was one of our first trustees and continues today as an ambassador. So it is my absolute pleasure, on behalf of all of us here, to offer our heartfelt congratulations and warm birthday wishes to him.
He has almost certainly done more than any other individual to inspire millions in this country and beyond to care about the natural world and its marvels. He continues to bring an understanding and enjoyment of nature – and all its beauty, strangeness and complexity – into our homes and our hearts. And the world is a better place for it.
His landmark Life series for the BBC has had an enduring influence on me, especially as my own passion for the planet developed. And I know it’s a similar story for great numbers of my colleagues here too, and indeed across the world of conservation.
In an interview with us on the eve of his 70th birthday, in 1996, Sir David pinpointed three of our priority species for conservation when he said:
“If we lose the romantic genera such as the giant panda, the mountain gorilla or the Sumatran rhino, then we also lose a facet of our cultural life and inheritance. So of course we must do our best to preserve them.”
But his understanding of nature does not begin and end with wildlife. In 2006, when he became convinced that the science pointing to climate change was correct, he put his considerable influence to bear on the subject – declaring it the biggest challenge facing the world.
All of us here at the organisation are incredibly fortunate to have benefited from Sir David’s unstinting support throughout our 55-year history. Describing himself as a ‘junior pipsqueak’ at the time when Peter Scott and others were talking about founding WWF, Sir David explains how: “Peter, who was a marvellous man whom I admired enormously, was very generous to all kinds of people, including junior pipsqueaks”. And so it was that Sir David Attenborough not only became involved in meetings about founding us, but also became a trustee for us in 1961 – and for three further periods, totalling more than 20 years.
During this long association, he has contributed to our work in an amazingly broad range of other ways, too. For instance, in the 1980s he narrated two environmentally-themed musicals with us, about the oceans and the Amazon. And in his role as one of our ambassadors, he joined us to officially open our new home – the Living Planet Centre in Woking in 2013. During his visit, he described us as “one of the great hopes for the world” and as “a leader of changing the world’s attitude towards our planet”.
These are words, I’m sure you’ll agree, that we could so easily apply to Sir David himself. We owe him a great debt of gratitude. Today, I take this auspicious opportunity to offer heartfelt thanks from everyone at WWF, and to wish this truly great man a wonderfully happy birthday!
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