David Attenborough: force of nature

The orangutan may be called the ‘old man of the forest’, but Sir David Attenborough runs it a close second. We put your questions to the great man

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© Rob Greig

When we asked you for questions to put to naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, the passion and knowledge behind them blew us away. Thanks to you, we got the Great Communicator discussing everything from his views on politicians and time working in BBC senior management to environmental campaigning and his favourite place on the planet – you’ll never guess where it is. (And sorry, @joolygee, we didn’t propose marriage on your behalf – but that’s only because we ran out of time.) Questions asked by Time Out’s TV editor, Gabriel Tate.

Which animal is top of your endangered list?
Hannah, 29, Nottingham
‘There isn’t one. And that’s because very few individual species are critical. What is critical are assemblages and ecosystems. We’re concerned about things like the giant panda or Hawaiian goose or whatever, because they’re charismatic and interesting and people can focus their attention on them. But the important thing is not the giant panda but the bamboo forest, which is a whole multitude of different species of animals and plants.’

Is there an ecosystem that is in particular need of attention?
Toren Atkinson, Canada
‘Yes. The coral reefs, for example, are an ecosystem which is absolutely crucial to the survival and health of the oceans, and to the survival of fish. Coral reefs are nurseries where whole groups of fish, the young fry, grow up before they go off into the ocean. If you lose a whole coral reef, you are causing seismic upsets to the ocean. And we are in danger of doing that, because the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing, and that acidifies the ocean, and the temperature is going up, both of which could be lethal to many corals. So there is one huge example.’

If you had the power to influence one country’s conservation efforts, which would it be and why?

Ben Church, 31, Surbiton
‘Brazil, probably, because it is so big and so crucial in the world climate, and because there are so many pressures on it to send it down the wrong way.’

Are man’s days numbered on this planet?
Kerry Barmer, 44, London Bridge
‘If you looked at history, you would say yes. Very few species have survived unchanged. There’s one called lingula, which is a little shellfish, a little brachiopod about the size of my fingernail, that has survived for 500 million years, but survived by being unobtrusive and doing nothing, and you can’t accuse human beings of that.’

David Attenborough’s Rise of the Animals’, Friday September 20 & 27, 9pm, BBC2.

Watch a clip from ‘Rise of the Animals’

Read our ‘Rise of the Animals’ reviews

Episode one

  • Rated as: 4/5

Attenborough’s legacy is already one of the most assured and noble in television history. Yet even now, he isn’t content to coast and remains relentlessly determined to shed light, bring knowledge, vanquish ignorance. To inform, educate and entertain.

Read the full review

Episode two

  • Rated as: 4/5

There are plenty of diverting asides on everything from echidna to wallabies, as well as an intriguing theory on the extinction of giant mammals. And we never thought we’d see the day that he’d experiment on a puppy. We’ll miss him when he’s gone.

Read the full review


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