Posts Tagged ‘Sir 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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This is a very good interview:


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This creature is a Patagonia mara or Patagonian cavy (Dolichotis patagonum). These animals are quite common in captivity.  They are staples of most road side zoos. If one of these zoos doesn’t have one of these, it is more likely to have a capybara, which is another large cavy species.

It is one of two species of mara. The other is the Chacoan mara (Dolichotis salinicola), which lives in the Chaco of Bolivia, Paraguay, and northern Argentina, not Patagonia.

These animals are incorrectly called Pampas hares, but they are rodents. Although they look like hares, they are very close relatives of the domestic guinea pigs. However, they are like hares in they produce fairly well-formed young that are fully-furred and capable of running shortly after birth. (Anyone who has seen newborn guinea pigs will recognize that they are quite unlike newborn hamsters or rats.)

My first exposure to the Patagonia mara was on Sir David Attenborough’s  Trials of Life series. Maras are colony breeders, and they tend to pool their young in one big group called a crèches.  The female maras will nurse only their own offspring, and although all young maras will try to nurse from any female, the females will not allow anyone other than their own babies to nurse.  The footage showed the females being quite forceful in enforcing this rule.

South American rodents are very strange creatures. In many ways, they have become the rodent equivalent of ungulates in other continents. The maras are like  a Thompson’s gazelle. The capybara is like a lechwe. The pacas and agoutis are like mouse deer and dik-diks.

These animals are wonderful examples of convergent evolution. They are almost as good examples as the thylacine and the placental wolf and the marsupial  and placental moles.  Similar niches require similar adaptations.

The maras are strange looking animals, but they have an elegance about them. I love the description in one of the comments that the mara was a cross between a Jack Russell and a white-tailed deer.

I don’t think I could have said better myself.

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This is what happens when you evolve in the absence of mammalian predators. You aren’t scared of things that can easily kill you.


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The brown hyenas of Namibia’s Skeleton Coast are known to hunt Cape fur seals in this manner.

In two of Namibia’s official languages (German and Afrikaans), the name for this animal is Strandwolf.  It literally means “beach wolf.”

Sir David Attenborough also makes a mistake in this piece.

Did you catch it?

It’s the first time I ever caught in saying something wrong about an animal.

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I love how he says “baleen.”

I also love how he says “harem.” In fact, I find the way most Americans pronounce that word a little bit strange.

Farley Mowat had a wonderful (if horrific) description of how the blue whales were killed in Sea of Slaughter (his best book).

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Nepenthes attenboroughii

Nepenthes attenboroughii

A team of botantists has discovered a species of carnivorous plant that is capable of catching small rodents and dissolving them for nutrients. This discovery was made on Mount Victoria, which is on Palawan in Philippines.

These carnivorous plants are called “pitcher plants,” and a close relative of this species has been well-documented for a very long time. The Philippine pitcher plant was known to grow in the area, but in 2000, some Christian missionaries reported seeing elaborate pitcher plants on a climbing expedition on Mount Victoria.

These reports reached the people of Red Fern Natural History Productions, who sent an expedition to Mount Victoria in 2007. This expedition was led by Stewart McPherson, and it included the British botantist Alistair Robinson and locally-based botantist Volker Heinrich.

What they discovered was truly shocking.

These plants have elaborate traps that trick large insects and even rodents into their pitchers.

Now, the proposed Linnean name for this species is Nepenthes attenboroughii.

It is, of course, named for Sir David Attenborough, who currently has a species of echidna named after him, as well as an extinct marine reptile called Attenborosaurus conybeari.

The fact that these organisms are named after Sir David Attenborough is testimony to his life’s work of explaining the natural word to mass audiences, using the broadcast technology. It is very likely that many of the scientists working on these species were first inspired to get interesting in nature and science when they watched David Attenborough’s wonderful nature documentaries as children.

Now, that’s quite a legacy to have.

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I had to post that video, because I’m a Sir David Attenborough fan and because I’m a bird nerd.

Wikipedia on the Kakapo.

The Fabulous Kakapo.

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Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V,

This documentary is the best wolf documentary I’ve seen.

I hope you like it.

True Arctic wolves make up most of this documentary. They are the easiest to film. They haven’t been shot at, trapped, and poisoned to the same extent as their more southerly relatives have. As a result, they can be approached more closely. By more closely, I mean that they can be approached within a half mile, and the packs don’t leave town. See David Mech’s Wolves of the High Arctic).

Never fear, it has returned!

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