The category of “beloved natural history documentarians” is pretty small, and David Attenborough is most of it. The legendary TV presenter and naturalist took to Reddit today with some surprising answers to fan questions about his life, his work, and the future of our planet. (Note: We’ve cleaned up some of the typos and misspellings that occur in casual conversations like these.)
1. HIS FAVORITE FOSSIL IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.
A fan asked the fossil lover to name the best piece in his collection. It seems like a simple enough question, but Attenborough played it coy. “A [dermal] scute from the Gogo Formation,” he said, before adding, “I daren’t tell you the real answer!”
2. HE’S NOT A RHINO FAN.
Image Credit: Coralie, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Attenborough said being charged by a rhino was the scariest thing that’s happened to him. When a participant mentioned the near-extinction of the northern white rhino, Attenborough brushed it off. “There’s also the southern white rhino, so it’s not a huge loss,” he said. “The bonobo is endanger[ed] and is more worthy of attention.”
3. HE IS, HOWEVER, A BJÖRK FAN.
Image Credit: Zach Klein, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.5
Attenborough united with kooky Icelandic artist Björk (and kooky British actor Tilda Swinton) for the 2013 documentary When Björk Met Attenborough. The film debuted on British TV to low ratings and mixed reviews; many critics found it charming, while others found it “awkward.” Attenborough, at least, seems to have enjoyed himself. When an AMA participant asked what he thought of his co-star, Attenborough said he wanted more. “I didn’t see enough of her!” he said.
4. HE HAS GREAT RESPECT FOR HIS CAMERA CREW.
Fans in the AMA were eager to give Attenborough all the credit for his renowned documentaries, but he was gracious enough to spread it around. Camera operators are “essential,” he said. “They are 90% of the production.”
5. SPACE TRAVEL DOESN'T INTEREST HIM.
One Attenborough devotee wondered if the naturalist was interested in taking his explorations into space. “No!” Attenborough replied. Another participant asked Attenborough if he thought it was a good idea to terraform Mars to prepare it for human habitation. “Oh! No, I shouldn’t think so!” Attenborough said.
6. HE’S STILL PRETTY DOWN ON HIS OWN SPECIES.
Attenborough makes no secret of his distaste for the human race. The filmmaker made headlines in 2013 when he called Homo sapiens “a plague on the Earth” in an interview with Radio Times. “Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now,” he said. His views remain unchanged today. One fan asked Attenborough if he thought things would be better or worse 50 years from now. “For the natural world … worse,” he said. “And the human [world] … probably [worse].” Another participant had a fun question: “If an alien Attenborough made a documentary about human beings, what would it be called?” Attenborough’s answer: “Et tu Brute[?]”
7. BUT HARVEST MICE MAKE HIM HAPPY.
Image Credit: Hecke, WikimediaCommons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Attenborough said the resourceful, wee rodent known as the harvest mouse (Micromys minutus) is his favorite animal in all the British Isles.
8. HE’S BEEN EVERYWHERE, MAN.
Decades and decades of work around the world have blurred together for Attenborough. A fan asked if Attenborough had ever been to the Wadden Sea. “… I can’t remember …” Attenborough replied. “But perhaps I have been there.”
9. WRITING IS JUST AS HARD FOR HIM AS IT IS FOR EVERYONE ELSE.
“What is your writing process like?” asked a participant. “Extremely painful and unproductive,” Attenborough responded.