Posts Tagged ‘David Attenborough’

From The Telegraph:

Britain is losing generations of young naturalists because of laws banning children from collecting birds’ eggs and fossils, according to Sir David Attenborough.

The broadcaster said he would never have been able to pursue his interest in wildlife if current legislation had been in place when he was a boy. The Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 prohibits the removal of eggs from the nest of any wild bird, while being found in possession of a dead wild bird – or any part of one – is also an offence.

Fossil–collecting is banned at Sites of Special Scientific Interest and is covered by numerous other guidelines.

Speaking to Radio Times, Sir David, 86, said few children now ventured out to explore the natural world. He agreed that the situation was “a disaster in waiting”.

He said: “Part of the reason for that is easy to identify, and that is because it’s no longer allowed – no longer legal – to be a collector.

“I openly admit that I collected birds’ eggs. And I knew when the right moment was when you could take one and the bird would lay another, so you didn’t damage the population.

And I learnt a lot from that. Now, I think it’s in the ledger of law, if you were to pick up a feather and put it in your pocket it would probably not be legal.

“And not to be allowed to collect fossils…”

His comments were supported by Chris Packham, a fellow BBC nature presenter, who said: “I can’t believe that future generations will learn their trade on television, on the internet and in libraries, because the passion has to come from the heart.

“You’ve got to want to set your alarm clock to go out and sit in a hide. Young people in particular are so disconnected from the natural world.

“I wouldn’t reprimand a young boy that I found climbing to a nest these days. I’d give him a bunk up into the tree.”

Speaking on the BBC Radio 5’s today programme Mr Packham added: “There are absolutely no young people enjoying our countryside. I feared we have turned out countryisde into a dark and dangerous place for children. They don’t engage with nature. They aren’t picking up fossils, watching fox cubs in the early morning.”

Egg-collecting has been implicated in the extinction of certain birds– most notably the great auk.

The great auk was once found on both sides of the North Atlantic, and it was hunted for its meat, feathers, and oil.

By the 1840’s, they became very rare, and museums and collectors wanted taxidermy specimens and eggs, and many a poor fisherman and egger supplemented his income through killing auks and robbing their nests.

But the vast majority of birds living in Britain today are not in the same situation as the great auk.

I once collected a nest of chipping sparrows and put them in my chicken egg incubator to make them hatch. They never did.

And when I was in eighth grade, my high school’s geology club went to the local road cut to dig around in the sandstone for trilobite fossils.

I cannot understand why these acts are now illegal without exception.

This is more of sign that the population of the United Kingdom is almost entirely alienated from the natural world, which means that this nation will have hard time coming up with rational conservation and wildlife management policy.

I hope that this country doesn’t become like the UK.

I hope that we recognize our wild heritage and our proud conservation history and work to preserve it for countless generations.

But we must engage our young people in the natural world.

We must make them experience nature in its fullest. Let them collect bugs and snake eggs and keep jars full of newts and tadpoles.

Let them marvel as children, and they’ll want to save it when they become adults.

That’s what happened to me.

Sir David Attenborough’s documentaries were very important to me when I was child, but if I couldn’t go out in the woods and experience it on my own, I don’t know if they would have had the same effect.

We do need to protect sensitive species from harassment and exploitation, but we also need to allow people more freedom to experience natural world as it is.

Only then will people understand why we have these laws in the first place.

Without a direct connection to it, the natural world becomes something like a cartoon.

And cartoons are not real.

You cannot manage or conserve cartoons.

They can only be what we will them to be.





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Richard Dawkins shows how flatfish disprove intelligent design, and Sir David Attenborough shows how flatfish develop from normal-looking fry that have eyes on both side of their heads into fish that have eyes on only one side.


A really good transitional fossil was recently discovered that shows how these fish might have evolved their peculiar shape from “normal” fish.

I would love to know the genetic basis for how these fish develop.

They start out as typical fry, but then the code within their DNA causes them to develop into something quite bizarre.

Think about how strange these fist are.

Imagine if you bought a puppy with eyes on both sides of its head, and then as the puppy matured, one eye began to migrate over to the other side. And then the dog started crawling around on its side/

That’s about what happens with flatfish.

But as strange as is their adaptations are, they are quite successful. They have been around for 50 million years, and there are anywhere from 400 to 600 species of them living on the planet at this time.

An intelligent designer would have made the flatfish like rays and skates, which are actually flattened out sharks. Skates and rays born flattened out and move very efficiently in the water. Flatfish really don’t move so efficiently in the water, and they don’t move very far from the sand in which they normally bury themselves.  Although many rays do bury themselves in the sand, manta rays swim in open water for great distances. There is not a single fish in the flatfish lineage that has evolved to be anything like a manta ray.

It’s probably because of the historical legacy of having evolved this body type that flatfish will be stuck on the ocean floor.

If they could evolve greater efficiency as swimmers, they might be able to go a different route.

And one could imagine that someday there might be an efficiently swimming flatfish that is able to take to the water column in search of prey. It would likely still have the eyes on one side of its head, and it would truly be a bizarre creature to behold!


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