The Telegraph celebrated WFN Trustee, Sir David Attenborough’s 90th birthday on Sunday 8th May by publishing heartfelt tributes from Kirsty Young, Bill Oddie and WFN’s Founder, Edward Whitley. Sir David is a true inspiration to all of us fighting to protect the natural world and we wish him a very happy 90th! Read the full article here.
Edward Whitley’s tribute:
“Sir David Attenborough has been a Trustee of The Whitley Fund for Nature for 11 years.
Like everyone who has corresponded with Sir David, I imagine that I am not alone in keeping his letters in a drawer of my desk. I have them here in front of me now, almost a dozen, all except two written by hand, all with first class stamps perfectly placed (actually, I now see one at a barely discernible angle) and sometimes with my name written at a different time or in different ink to the rest of the address.
These letters are amongst my most treasured possessions because they form a direct link to David, who first articulated the intricate beauty of the world which I hoped to explore and then – when I understood the risks to that world – inspired my quest to conserve it.
David has been to places I shall never go and he reports back from the outer edge with matter of fact wonder: “What nobody ever tells you about manatees,” He pauses to drink his tea, “Is that they have the most appalling halitosis!” I laugh, bite into my shortcake, make a mental note, and wait for more. David never disappoints.
The Whitley Fund for Nature has now funded some 200 leading conservationists working in many of the places where David has filmed. When our winners meet David, they invariably tell him that he was the single most profound influence on how they see the world and how they now lead their lives. That unites us all. But David is determined that the conversation must be a dialogue, not a eulogy, and he listens carefully to their reports and learns what he can from each one. This great skill of listening is of course one of the key ingredients of his success as a reporter.
So the letters stay in my drawer – sometimes I re-read them for their courtesy, their generous sentiments, their humour, their wisdom, but also because just holding them is like holding a lightening conductor to the remote other world spread out far and wide beyond my own horizons, where so many places bear his invisible footprints. And it is this world, the natural world, the marvellous Attenborough world to which he above anyone else has opened our eyes and caused us to marvel, which we must fight to save.”