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Wed 28 May 2008

"Sir David calls it a day"

Category : tvradio

Arts Central to air Life in Cold Blood in November

"Sir David calls it a day," by Tara Tan. The Straits Times, 23 May 2008. Acclaimed naturalist David Attenborough ends his five-decade-long career with a series on reptiles and amphibians.

BEADY eyes stare. A forked tongue tastes the air. Then, as quick as lightning, the mangrove snake coils around a startled crab and rips off its limbs one by one.

All this drama took place in swamps right here in Singapore.

And it was captured on camera as part of Life In Cold Blood, the latest - and last ever - documentary series by renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough, and which will be shown on Arts Central from Nov 26.

At 81, Sir David has decided to call it quits on his globe-trotting TV activities that have captivated millions.

As for his visit to Singapore, Sir David, one of the world's most acclaimed natural history presenters, says it left him impressed with some of the environmental work done here.

He says in a phone interview from his home in London: 'There are some very active people in Singapore who look after the Singapore natural history with enormous success.

'With those around working hard to protect the areas, you do have some very precious parts in the few remaining areas where there is wildlife in Singapore.'

His career spans five decades and includes landmark documentaries The Living Planet (1984) and Planet Earth (2006).

It comes as no surprise that no effort was spared for Life In Cold Blood, which had a team of 17 cameramen filming over 100 species of amphibians and reptiles in 18 countries, including Madagascar, Brazil, Australia and Japan.

For his final project, Sir David turned to a species he had kept as a child. He recalls: 'As a boy, I used to keep chameleons and I have actually watched the birthing process.'

He adds with a laugh: 'They are not poisonous, which helps.'

One of the most exciting things he saw during the filming of his latest series was pygmy chameleons in Madagascar.

'The tiny pygmy chameleon is only the size of my little finger nail, but has all the organs of a larger lizard - eyes and stomach and brain and hands and so on - and lives on tiny little fruit flies,' he says excitedly, his voice taking on that familiar tinge of passion and wonderment.

'I was absolutely knocked out. I thought they were marvellous.'

His career has taken him to most places on earth and he has witnessed some of nature's most extraordinary sights.

However, he is happy to take a backseat from now on: 'I am now coming up to my 82nd birthday and I don't feel the urge to climb trees before breakfast as I used to do.'

If he hadn't become a naturalist, he would most probably have been a palaeontologist (an expert in fossils). He says: 'I adore fossils and fossils were my first love. I get a great thrill from them, they are wonderful and romantic, beautiful things.'

His elder brother, Academy Award-winning Lord Richard Attenborough, acted in Jurassic Park as eccentric developer John Hammond in 1993. And fossil-fanatic Sir David notes: 'He made a mistake; he didn't understand some of the names.'

Of all the nature he has seen, he would choose to relive watching birds of paradise in the mountains of New Guinea: 'That is just one of the extraordinary, amazing, rare, beautiful, real unforgettable sights in my lifetime.'

taratan@sph.com.sg

Life In Cold Blood will be shown on Arts Central from Nov 26 and every Wednesday at 10pm.

Posted at 2:20AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email | Raffles Museum news