Since the 1950s, naturalist Sir David Attenborough has educated viewers about the world around us. But in our current climate, his most recent series, Seven Worlds, One Planet, could be his most important work yet.
Here, Sir David, 93, and producer Jonny Keeling explain why.
Are you surprised there are still so many new stories to tell?
David: Yes. But in the same way that there are lots of political stories, things are evolving [in nature]. It's changed a lot since I started making television programs. But the techniques of conservation and how you know where the dangers lie, what action you can take to stop it and what the value of biological diversity is – that's a different issue.
Perhaps it could be the next series. Seven Worlds is saying, "Look, this is happening! You ought to be doing something about it." And then it's left for others to follow up.
Do you have a stand-out moment from the series?
David: There's a sequence of a chimpanzee learning how to crack nuts. A young chimpanzee watches his mother, thinking, "Hmm", and then tries to do the same thing with big rocks – and then smaller ones – but it doesn't work.
Eventually, he works his way through into being able to crack it, and the look on his face… Apes' faces are impassive – they don't have the musculature we have but he's clearly pleased. Bang – he's cracked it! It's a lovely sequence.
Were there dangerous moments?
Jonny: During the pilot episode, we went to Antarctica to film leopard seals. We're on a little boat that's about 15 metres long, and the ice shifts around with the wind and the current. They're huge icebergs.
I felt sorry for the camera operator in the water, because that's very brave. Leopard seals are two-and-a-half to three metres long. They swam up and bit the side of our boat – at one point, they punctured it; we were telling him to get in the water!
Q: Are you still amazed by the quality of the productions?
David: Certainly. It's a great compliment, and I'm delighted, to be asked to join the team, because when I see it, it's pretty well finished, production-wise. I hope I have some effect on the words. That's what I contribute – the words, which I both write and speak.
David Attenborough: Seven Worlds, One Planet airs Thursday, 7:30pm, on Nine.
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