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I had no intention of becoming a TV presenter... I appeared by accident really.

Sir David Attenborough reaches a milestone birthday tomorrow. To mark the occasion, BBC1 will celebrate the broadcaster and naturalist's life and career in one-hour special Attenborough At 90.

The man himself talks to SUSAN GRIFFIN about his early inspirations, forging a career in TV and hopes for the future Who or what inspired your interest in natural history? THERE was the Leicestershire countryside, which is where I grew up and apart from that there were wonderful books.

One very few people know about now, by Ernest Thompson Seton, a ranger in the Canadian prairie.

He wrote about the animals he knew and he was a good artist and drew the little footprints down the side margins. I adored those books. Wept over them too.

Did your parents make an impression on your career choice? MY FATHER was a scholar, an academic and an expert on Anglo-Saxons, but he also understood about education and he said to each of his three sons, 'What is it you want to do?' and I said, 'I want to do something with animals and fossils'.

He said there are ways of finding out about that. You can go to the museum and there are some good books.

How did your career in television begin back in the early Fifties? BY ACCIDENT and certainly not by design. I was working in publishing, in an extremely boring job, and saw an advertisement that the BBC was looking for a radio producer.

I applied and got a polite refusal, but about a fortnight afterwards, I got another letter from someone else in the BBC saying, 'We're starting this new thing called television, would you like to apply?' I had no intention of becoming a presenter (of Zoo Quest in 1954) and the only reason I did was the man from the zoo, Jack Lester, became very ill. So I appeared by accident really.

Was it a difficult decision to later resign as director of programmes for the BBC? I'D PAID off the mortgage and the children had left school and been educated and (I asked myself) what was I going to do? What I knew I enjoyed most was making programmes, so why not go back to making programmes? When I was running BBC2, we started a new kind of documentary, which was a 13-part one-hour programme, but I knew the subject you could make a mind-blowing series about would be the history of life on earth and I thought, 'By golly, that's a thing I'd like to do'.

As soon as I resigned, I suggested to the BBC this as something they might consider.

You've always used cutting-edge technology. What does this mean for the documentaries you do now? NOW we have absolutely everything.

In fact, I truly think there is almost no circumstance that we could not film.

The new thing we're doing about bioluminescence (for Attenborough's Life That Glows) is the latest step forward.

Martin Dohrn, the cameraman, is passionate about experimenting electronically with new cameras and new ways of doing things in order to get these shots. A few years ago, that would've been impossible.

What's the most important factor in protecting endangered species? POACHING is a huge problem worldwide, so we have to develop a sympathy for the natural world everywhere.

And actually, I think that's one of the things that television can do with natural history programmes.

It's a bizarre thing. There are now more people living on Earth today than there have ever been in the history of the universe and they all need places to live and so on, of course they do.

But if we go on increasing at that sort of rate, there won't be any wilderness left.

There are other creatures on the Earth that also call this planet home and we have a responsibility for them so we need to give them the space and natural reserves.

What can you tell us about the upcoming series Planet Earth II? WHEN the idea was put up, people said, 'You've done it all', but the fact is when you start all this searching, you find things you haven't done at all that are going to be thrilling, new and exciting.

Making programmes is just huge fun. Not only do I go to exciting places and do exciting things, you do it with pals, with people who are a joy to work with and making programmes is very much a team thing.

I feel constantly embarrassed about the amount of credit I get for the amount of work that many, many people are doing.

Attenborough At 90 airs on BBC1 tomorrow at 7pm while Attenborough's Life That Glows is on BBC2 on Monday at 9pm.


Sir David Attenborough pictured for Attenborough at 90, which is screening to celebrate his birthday

Sir David picured in 1972, left, and, right, with an armadillo from 'Attenborough's Animals' in 1963
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Date:May 7, 2016
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