Tracing Sir David Attenborough’s Nature Documentary Milestones

Tracing Sir David Attenborough’s Nature Documentary Milestones
Sir David Attenborough's mural in Richmond, London, Photo Credit: Matt Brown / Flickr

You are significant even if you are tiny. Phytoplanktons are the living testimony. Let Sir David Attenborough introduce you to the wonder that we lovingly call Nature

Precious Kamei
August 18 , 2019
05 Min Read

It’s hard to explain how a ball of dung can be so exciting for a child aged 8 when all around her were TV shows, cartoons and friends. It’s funny how, at that time, I shared more similarities with a dung beetle than other children of my age. Dung beetle and I, we both loved the way that ball of dung rolled. Years later, and much to my happiness, I watched Operation Dung Beetle, a BBC Earth documentary, narrated by Sir David Attenborough. The joy was unexplainable. 

A dung beetle with its prized possessionGrowing up, I would be hooked to BBC channel, waiting for that voice telling me how a careless insect would be the venus flytrap’s next victim, how the gang of hungry dolphins would circle around a school of mackerel and in seconds a feeding frenzy would begin. Needless to say, Sir David Attenborough helped me get hooked to nature programmes and there are no regrets till date. 

Greater White-fronted Geese in flightMy love for birding rather came to me as a surprise because once upon a time there was one extremely confrontational chicken in our family yard whose stealth attacks put the fear of the (chicken) Lord in me and I was pretty sure I hated birds. No matter how many injured birds my mother brought home to treat and rehabilitate, I always had this faithful fear towards the “winged beasts” as I would call them. Over the years as I continued watching more of these nature documentaries, my perspective towards nature changed. The problem of climate change, the melting of glaciers, the deep diving orcas, the mysterious long journeys of sea turtles, the endless flights of migratory birds, the discipline of working ants, the importance of bees, the spores leaving the fungi...though the list is endless, our fragile planet, sadly, is not without an end. 

If you are also a fan of Sir David Attenborough like yours truly, you are not a stranger to BBC’s Life and Planet Earth series. 

Planet Earth, a 2006 British television series was the most expensive nature documentary series produced by the BBC. The Life series that took four years in the makingtakes us closer to the life of selected extraordinary species. Sir David Attenborough wrote and narrated the original script for the series that involved shooting in every nook and cranny of all seven continents. My personal favourite was the episode on insects, spying on an unsuspecting ant successfully ‘walking’ away with an egg of a stick insect to be precise. How did they even film that? 

The Jesus lizard gets its name from its ability to walk on waterWhat  makes these documentaries important is the fact that these are not only full of interesting facts and insights but also contain a lot of TV’s firsts. For instance, for the first time in the history of television, the common basilisk, a species of lizard also lovingly called Jesus Lizard was documented from the rainforest of South America. The Jesus Lizard gets its name from its ability to walk on water. Also for the first time in TV appeared a Komodo dragon hunting its prey, the great clash of many male humpback whales during their ‘heat run’ (where a female humpback whale lures the males and the males try their best to grab her attention. Such drama! The fact that each episode/documentary is dedicated to a specific environment takes us to almost every aspect of nature, be it about mammals, forest, birds, insects or life underwater. They are ripe with information and they also make for very good travel inspiration, don’t they? All of Sir David Attenborough’s works are important and have made huge impacts globally when it comes to nature conservation. But most noticeable ones are Frozen Planet, one of his finest works till date, Zoo Quest (his first), The Life of Birds, Africa, The Life of Mammals, The Life of Plants, Life on Earth, Planet Earth and The Blue Planet. Life on Earth is a personal favourite and it is so for many reasons. The documentary brings us another TV’s first, documenting mountain gorillas in their habitat in Rwanda. School textbooks did tell me about how 70 percent of our planet’s surface is covered by water but I am pretty sure I was convinced after watching The Blue Planet documentary. I can confidently say that the documentary on the water bodies of our planet was life changing. The documentary brought forth the topic of ocean pollution and why conservation is crucial. Seventy percent of water does sound excellent but do you even know how much of it can be consumed us humans and other creatures? Pick a lesser percentage (as low as you can) and believe it to be true because it is. 

When we map Sir David Attenborough’s milestones, Life On Earth documentary sits on top. The documentary established Attenborough as the world’s leading nature documentary maker. I continue to love his work till date because these nature documentaries are not only extremely informative but also are fun to watch. Attenborough’s voice rings in my ears “...only one hatchling in a thousand will survive to adulthood. But if she does, she may live for 80 years…”

A sloth reaching out for a branch

Fun Fact: A sloth is half blind, half deaf and is successfully the world’s slowest mammal with a top speed of 0.24 kilometres per hour. 

| Can't get enough of nature documentaries? Check out our piece of trivia on Netflix's Our Planet |



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