Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Naturally curious:

Sir David Attenborough's natural curiosity finally got the better of him when he came face-to-face with a zebra.
By James Evans
Date: May 15 2013
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Sir David Attenborough has explored the tundra of Siberia, the searing plains of the Gobi Desert, the forest of Papua New Guinea, encountering feral wild animals primed and ready to defend their territory.

Yet in a 60-year career, he has surprisingly endured few close calls ... until shooting for his most recent series, Natural Curiosities where he fell foul of a zebra.

“Sixty years ... sixty years and I haven’t had so much as a sting, a bite. I’ve been charged several times by rhinos and there’ve of course been a few close shaves along the way with snakes and dangerous spiders and the like, but by and large I’ve known how to handle myself. Frankly if you get attacked by an animal, you’re not working their environment correctly and it’s your own fault.

“But somehow, I managed to aggravate a rather irate zebra while we were shooting Natural Curiosities, and without even noticing, it swung round and clamped down on my finger. Of all animals to get bitten by, a zebra. Marvellous!”

Having celebrating six decades at the very peak of his game, during which time he has fronted and produced groundbreaking natural world programs including Life in the Freezer, Blue Planet andThe Life of Mammals, the 87-year-old grandfather is showing no signs of slowing down. Indeed, he’s actually ramping up his work commitments.

Early this year, he headed for China for a new series documenting freshly discovered fossils; then followed a stint in the Amazon where he conducted research on the design and mechanisation of the spider’s web.

Having spent his career charting the four corners of the earth and all its natural wonders, Attenborough has gone against the grain and remained in the United Kingdom for Natural Curiosities, a series which shines the spotlight on some of nature’s extraordinary evolutionary anomalies, looking at how, even today, these curious animals continue to baffle and fascinate.

“There was no need to travel outside the UK for this programme because we were looking to focus on the animals outside of their habitat, concentrating on their marvellous adaptations and mutations.”

Each episode features two creatures with curiously distinctive characteristics that link together with a common theme. From the curious ‘hoax’ of the Platypus’s discovery to the Narwhal, the creature that inspired myth of the Unicorn, and the Mole Rat that defies the age limits of all other rodents and lives for 30 years, Sir David discovers how nature has found a way of turning the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Natural Curiosities looks at animals in a way that no other program on television does. With the spotlight on the animal, we can investigate the myths and legends surrounding their discovery.

“You’ve got a lot of ecological stories, a lot of conservation stories, a lot of adventure stories and, most importantly, the mythical side, which encompasses the once believed existence of mermaids, dragons and the like.

“These tales don’t normally fit into the formula of a typical wildlife show, but this format enables you to do that.

“And that fact that we had the opportunity to film at places like London’s Natural History Museum, Kew Gardens and more, with the furthest we ventured being Scotland, meant it was a lovely novelty to be able to return to my home in Richmond most nights.

“I haven’t enjoyed that luxury in a long time.”

Given that Sir David has arguably chartered the entire surface of the planet, does he also harbour ambitions to cross the next frontier and land a spot on Richard Branson’s maiden voyage flight of Virgin Galactic?

“No, not at all,” he exclaims. “The thing with space is there’s nothing out there; nothing as beautiful as a butterfly. It’s a barren world compared to the beauty of the Earth; a beauty that will never be fully discovered because it is always evolving.

“I’ve seen about as much as I can possibly imagine, but I’m still not finished with this planet just yet.”

It was announced last month that Sir David is set to film another series of Natural Curiousities for broadcast later this year. The first series is yet to be shown on Australian television.

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