Sir David Attenborough has said the BBC made him wait 70 years to make his first series looking at British wildlife after telling him to go explore Africa instead.
In Wild Isles, Sir David’s new hit series, the naturalist turns his attention to the “extraordinary wildlife drama and animal spectacle” found among the flora and fauna of the British Isles.
Asked why it took him so long to make a British wildlife series, Sir David, 96, blamed “internal BBC politics”.
Speaking to Chris Packham on a special edition of BBC Two winter guardSir David explained: “I joined [the BBC] in 1952, and television was limited to London only.
“Bristol had a natural history unit on the radio but there was no television, so we had a great meeting and they said, ‘Listen, you do natural history and I think we should agree on that. because when television comes here, we want to do natural history television.
“’You know what, we’re going to do British natural history, and you can do all that in Africa. And I said, ‘It’s fine with me all the way!’… so it’s a great ambition that has come to fruition.
Asked by Packham, “Is that a true story?”, Sir David replied, “Well, of course it is! What! Yes absolutely!”
wild islandsscreened on BBC One in the spring, will introduce viewers to scenes of gulls stealing fish from puffins off Northumberland, black grouse and hen harriers courting in the Cairngorms and a bee riding a broom in Dorset.
It also introduces gangs of giant leeches, with five pairs of eyes and three sets of teeth, used to swallow tiny toads whole.
Packham, with Sir David’s approval, said: “In the UK we have some really amazing animal shows. You don’t have to travel the world to see them.
Sir David replied: ‘Traditionally, overseas it’s been these wonderful programs… when we turn on the works, all the big cameramen, you know, work there in big teams.
“Well, it’s that kind of exciting research beacon that you put on, that you do when you put on Africa, we’ve done that here.”
Filmed for three years, wild islandsco-produced by the Open University, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), will continue the campaign theme of Sir David’s recent hit series.
Tanya Steele, chief executive of WWF, said: “The UK is one of the most nature-poor countries in the world – we need to change that.”
:: Sir David Attenborough’s interview can be viewed on Winterwatch, BBC Two and iPlayer at 8pm on Thursday 26th and Friday 27th January.