Katie Timms, Devon Live | September 6, 2020
Sir David Attenborough has issued a stark warning that we must protect the planet, otherwise the human race will face more killer pandemics.
The natural historian fears that our only “hope of averting disaster” is to act now and take responsibility for our actions. Sir David’s warning comes in new hard-hitting BBC documentary, Extinction: The Facts. The 94-year-old reveals his concern in the hour-long programme, due to be aired on Sunday, September 13.
He says: “We are facing a crisis and one that has consequences for us all. It threatens our ability to feed ourselves, to control our climate. “It even puts us at greater risk of pandemic diseases such as COVID-19. “It’s never been more important for us to understand the effects of biodiversity loss, of how it is that we ourselves are responsible for it.
“Only if we do that will we have any hope of averting disaster.”Sir David adds: “I do truly believe together we can create a better future. I might not be here to see it, but if we make the right decisions at this critical moment, we can safeguard our planet eco-systems, extra biodiversity and all its inhabitants.
“What happens next is up to every one of us.”
The new programme explores how the extinction of animals and plants is happening up to 100 times faster than the natural rate of evolution. It draws on a United Nations report last year that warned one million of the world’s eight million species face the threat of being wiped out. The plight of the Northern White rhino is highlighted on the show. They were once found in their thousands in Central Africa, but habitat loss and hunting pushed them to the brink of extinction.
Today there are only two left on Earth – Najin and her daughter, Fatu in Kenya.
But Sir David knows humans can turn things around – and he draws on his wealth of experience to prove it, including a visit to Virunga, in Rwanda, in 1979. He recalls: “I met some of the few remaining mountain gorillas, including a mischievous youngster called Poppy.
“As I was preparing to talk to camera, Poppy was at my feet trying to take off my shoes. It was an experience that has stayed with me, but it was tinged with sadness as I thought I might be seeing some of the last of their kind.”
But conservation efforts helped the population grow from 250 to more than 600.
Sir David says: “To see Poppy’s daughter and grand-daughter thriving is thrilling. It shows what we can achieve when we put our minds to it.” He adds: “I’ve encountered some of the world’s most remarkable species of animals.
“Only now do I realise just how lucky I’ve been.
“Many of these wonders seem set to disappear forever. Unique animals with complex and varied lives disappearing from our planet forever isn’t just disturbing, it’s deeply tragic.
“But this is about more than losing wonders of nature. The consequences of these losses for us as a species are far-reaching and profound.”
The programme also features Sir Robert Watson, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity Ecosystem Services, who echoed Sir David’s warnings about future pandemics.
Speaking exclusively to the Sunday People, he said: “We need to recognise that the way we’re interacting with nature is increasing the probability of those sorts of pandemics in the future.
“Wet markets for example, where we’ve got animals and humans together, and animals that don’t normally interact with each other.
“We have to realise how we’re exposing ourselves to this and the more we destroy nature, the more we are exposed.”
Extinction: The Facts will be on BBC One at 8pm on September 13.