With a career spanning over six decades, Sir David Attenborough has pioneered, guided and relentlessly endeavoured to change the way we look at the natural world. His vision, expertise and unmatched understanding of our habitats have offered us with valuable insights and unknown facets about our world. At 92, he is still awestruck by the unexplored and eager to preserve the environment. The Godfather of Natural History sheds light on our oceans, their greatest threat from humanity and why we would regret if we don’t action change now. The spectacular series Blue Planet II airs everyday at 9 pm on Sony BBC Earth.
Q You have such a consummate understanding of the natural world. No one else has an understanding that you have. Does anything surprise you anymore?
Yes, there are a lot of things that still surprise me. Blue Planet II particularly has been full of surprises and awestruck moments for me. I’m absolutely astounded from this lot. Down in the deep sea I couldn’t believe what I saw. It was completely magical and breath-taking.
QWhat sequence surprised you the most in the series?
When I saw those eels diving into what was a lake at the bottom of the sea in The Deep episode. It takes a bit of time to get your mind around that sort of a thing. How can there be a lake at the bottom of the sea? And then it explodes like a volcano.
QIn the series, you have spoken about gaining a new understanding of the lives beneath the waves. What is perhaps the one new sentiment you would like our viewers to come away with after you’ve watched the whole series?
That is a responsibility every one of us has. We may think we live a long way from the oceans but we don’t. What we actually do here and in the middle of Asia and wherever across the world has a direct effect on the oceans and what the oceans do then reflects back on us. It is one world. And it’s in our care. For the first time in the history of humanity, for the first time in 500 million years, one species has the future in the palm of its hands. I just hope we realise that is the case.
QWhat concerns you the most about what you’re communicating in this series with regards to the help of the oceans? What things are most urgently in need of care?
Two things. One of course is the rising temperature which is illustrated in the last episode on what happens if the temperature goes up by 1.5 degrees Celsius. The second thing is plastic in the ocean. Now what we’re going to do about 1.5 C rise in the ocean temperature over the next 10 years is something I don’t know, but we could actually do something about plastic right now. There are so many sequences that every single one of us have been involved in, even in the most peripheral way, where we have seen tragedies happen because of the plastic in the ocean. We’ve seen albatross’ come back with their belly full of food for their young and nothing in it. The albatross parent has been away for three weeks gathering stuff for her young and what comes out? What does she give her chick? You think it’s going to be squid, but it’s plastic. And the chick is going to starve and die. It’s high time that we start thinking about plastics posing a major threat of life in the oceans.
QWhat is your favourite sequence in the series?
There’s a little anemone fish off the reef living in the sand that is surrounded by dangers but it finds refuge in the tentacles of an anemone, because it’s immune to their poison. So that is its safety. But the female has to lay eggs and she can’t do that on the soft tentacles of an anemone. So the little male goes around trying to find something where she could lay safely. He finds an empty coconut shell, or half a coconut but the trouble is its miles away from the safety of the anemone. So he decides to get hold of that and pull the thing all the way back to the safety of the anemone. You can see him doing that and what’s bothering is that other anemone fish also come in and decide to live inside the coconut. So the struggles with which he has to bring the coconut shell to the anemone and the triumph on his little face when he does is a spellbinding sequence.
Grieving Koko the gorilla
Koko, the gorilla who gained fame for mastering sign language, breathed her last on June 19 in California. The western lowland Gorilla who befriended a lot of celebrities through sign language, including Robin Williams, died at the age of 46. In her loving memory, Sony BBC Earth will air a special series ‘Koko — The Gorilla Who Talks to People’ on Friday, June 29 at 11 a.m.
This series is a unique and personal story of Koko, the only talking gorilla in the world, and her lifelong relationship with researcher Penny Patterson. Project Koko started as a PhD project to teach sign language to a baby gorilla, but as Koko began to communicate with Penny, an intense bond formed between them. Penny who has been Koko’s caretaker for over 40 years claims that Koko had moved beyond simple language to express complex emotions that changed people’s attitude towards all animals.
Koko’s unique life with Penny was filmed every step of the way and traces Koko’s life over the years: her love, losses, dating, her unfulfilled desire to have a baby and her work as an ambassador worldwide for better understanding and protection of great apes. Koko was truly extraordinary as she challenged everything we thought we knew about animal intelligence.