Celebrating Sir David Attenborough at 90: Decades of devotion to UK wildlife

Posted on 6th May 2016


The Wildlife Trusts thank David for being the UK’s great supporter of the wild world

While the majority may know him best from his television programmes, The Wildlife Trusts are keen for the nation to recognise Sir David’s dedication to nature conservation in the UK over more than five decades.

  • The Wildlife Trusts will be celebrating key moments online – from Sir David’s opening of Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust’s Gibraltar Point visitor centre in 1974; and the success of the British Wildlife Appeal to his most recent launch of London’s landmark nature reserve, Woodberry Wetlands – and many more!

Find out more about Sir David’s involvement with The Wildlife Trusts, by visiting www.wildlifetrusts.org/Attenborough90 from Saturday 7 May 2016.

  • Use our archive images of Sir David Attenborough throughout the years at Wildlife Trust projects and nature reserves to illustrate his support of UK nature conservation.  View and download images here.  Please note these images are available free for use only with this release.  They are granted on a one-time use basis, in association with The Wildlife Trusts and the photographer(s) must be credited.

Sir David Attenborough led The Wildlife Trusts’ British Wildlife Appeal (BWA) in 1985. Using the strap line ‘Tomorrow is too late’, the appeal’s target was to raise £10 million over five years.  The aim was to buy and care for land with endangered species and declining habitats; to give everyone a chance to get to know and enjoy wildlife in town and country; and to promote greater public awareness of the threats to wildlife.   Sir David took on a gruelling 14-day tour and his lectures were heard by many thousands of people.  The British Wildlife Appeal raised £16m for nature conservation around the UK – that’s equivalent to £46m in today’s money!

In 1990, Sir David reflected:  “The winds of change were with us.  There has been an extraordinary awakening.  Even the Prime Minister was commenting on conservation.  The situation has got so much worse; everyone now sees that the wood over the hill is threatened and that the hedgerows have gone.  We are all much more concerned about the environment. However… almost more important than the money, was the way that numerous people throughout the land worked together to save their local countryside.”

More than a quarter of a century later, and one week before his 90th birthday, Sir David Attenborough launched London Wildlife Trust’s Woodberry Wetlands nature reserve, where he said:  “Contact with the natural world isn’t a luxury… it is actually a necessity for all of us.  All we know about the natural world gives us pleasure, delight, expertise, continuous interest throughout the year – joy on many occasions and solace on sad ones.  Knowing about the natural world and being in contact with the natural world is the most precious inheritance that human beings can have.

“We should be grateful indeed for all the work that The Wildlife Trusts have done for children to see the seasons as they pass, to see not just asphalt and concrete and brick – but reeds and willows; to see birds coming up from Africa; to hear above the hubbub of the traffic – birdsong; to catch a glimpse of a kingfisher, one of the most wonderful sights that Britain has to offer – that flash of blue as it flies up-river.”

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, The Wildlife Trusts’ chief executive, said:  “Our archives are filled with photographs of Sir David Attenborough visiting or opening Wildlife Trust nature reserves and centres over the last 50 years.  He has travelled the length and breadth of the country to do so, and was in Hackney this Saturday last to open Woodberry Wetlands.  David has given brilliant lectures and talks and launched numerous campaigns including our British Wildlife Appeal in the 1980s.  He has honoured some of our greatest people – not least amongst them Ted Smith.  Like us, David cares passionately about the wildlife and countryside of this country and about the fundamental need for children to live close to the natural world.  We’re delighted to share some of our archive ahead of David’s 90th birthday so that we can all celebrate his dedication to UK wildlife as well as that of the wider world.”