Happy birthday Sir David Attenborough

As the world’s most iconic wildlife broadcaster celebrates his 90th birthday, international conservation charity the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is marking the occasion by taking a trip down memory lane, with a series of photographs commemorating his work for wildlife.

Sir David Attenborough and Bulu the orangutan
Sir David Attenborough and Bulu the orangutan

In a career spanning more than 60 years, Sir David Attenborough has become firmly established as the leading voice in wildlife television, bringing the wonders of the animal kingdom into the homes of millions around the world.

It was while producing The Pattern of Animals in 1953 that Attenborough met ZSL London Zoo’s then-curator of reptiles Jack Lester, who unbeknown to them both was to play a pivotal role in Sir David’s television history.

The ground-breaking Zoo Quest series (broadcast between 1954 – 1963) developed by Attenborough and Lester was to have huge repercussions on not only the general public’s understanding of, and interest in, the natural world, but on the course of Sir David’s career forever.

With Jack Lester originally set to present the series, an unfortunate illness meant he had to step aside, and a young Attenborough had to take his place in front of the camera. In his debut role as a wildlife presenter, Attenborough enthralled audiences as he travelled on behalf of ZSL London Zoo, to far-flung places including South America, Indonesia, and Africa, and brought species, such as the Komodo dragon, to the attention of the British public for the first time.

As his career took off, Sir David continued to work closely with ZSL; from naming Bulu, the offspring of an orphaned orangutan he rescued from Borneo, and the first of her species to be born in Britain, to being awarded the ZSL Silver medal and an Honorary Fellowship for his contributions to education and conservation, and opening the Komodo Dragon exhibit at ZSL London Zoo.

ZSL’s Zoological Director, Professor David Field, said: “Sir David Attenborough is a true ambassador for the natural world. He has been a pioneer in the world of animal education, inspiring people of all ages across the globe by bringing the wonders of the natural world into the hearts and homes of viewers everywhere.

“The idea that Sir David may never have appeared in front of the camera were it not for a small twist of fate, is quite unbelievable. His inimitable style and genuine passion for wildlife is what makes him the icon he is today, and every day we hear from our visitors, zookeepers and conservationists of the impact he has had on them – the animal kingdom has a lot to thank Sir David for.”

Alongside filming at ZSL London and Whipsnade Zoos for a variety of documentaries following Zoo Quest, including Attenborough’s Paradise Birds in 2015, and Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur in 2016, Sir David has also launched numerous conservation initiatives, tirelessly championing the plight of species and the need to protect the natural world.

ZSL London Zoo is hosting an exhibition of archive images from Sir David’s career from now until October 2016, included in the Zoo entry price. 

Celebrating Sir David Attenborough at 90

  • Zoological Director Professor David Field looks back on his incredible career, his ongoing relationship with ZSL and his lasting impact on the world of conservation. Read the blog here.
  • In this video, people from across ZSL from zoo keepers to scientists, vets to conservationists have been talking about how he has inspired them to work for wildlife. 

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