The amazing life of David Attenborough

Story highlights

  • David Attenborough's adventures appeared on our TV screens more than six decades ago
  • The British broadcaster has inspired entire generations to learn about our planet

London (CNN)Whether he's describing his encounter with a family of mountain gorillas or with a blind baby rhino, British broadcaster and naturalist, David Attenborough, is as passionate as ever, even at 90 years of age.

"I remember one occasion in a very remote part of northern Australia," he tells Christiane Amanpour in a wide-ranging interview. "And I'll never forget -- it's just one of those odd instances -- but the sun came up, and there was this billabong, this lagoon in front of me full of the most fabulous birds."
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    His adventures began appearing on our TV screens more than six decades ago, and have inspired entire generations to learn more about our planet.
    Young people, he says, are not paying enough attention to how endangered our wildlife is.
    "But they're paying more [attention] than they did. And if you talk to young people today, young people are passionate about wildlife, much more than they were when I was a kid, when I was their age," he says. "They're really, really angry at what people are doing to the natural world, and they really want to care about it and do something."
    His own fascination with nature began as a boy collecting fossils, something that clearly still fascinates him and which he even describes as "romantic."
    Attenborough posing with a southeast Asian Great Mormon Butterfly, at the London Zoo in 2012.
    He ended up in front of the camera in 1954 when the presenter of "Zoo Quest," a program Attenborough produced with London Zoo curator Jack Lester for the BBC, became ill.
    In 1965, he was made controller of BBC Two, and was later made director of programs for both channels.
    "By then I'd spent eight years sitting behind the desk, and, OK, the kids had been educated, you paid for the grand piano -- what are you doing? And I thought, 'there's Patagonia. You've never been to Patagonia,'" he says.
    Attenborough at the BBC in 1965.
    A series of award-winning shows followed, including "Life on Earth" in 1979, the groundbreaking natural history documentary watched by more than 500 million people worldwide.
    Attenborough, who had previously admitted to being skeptical about global warming, has long since converted to fervent believer and says there is no doubt that humans are responsible for it.
    "We should stop burning carbon. As simple as that," he adds. "We need simply to refine the technology to make it cheaper than taking it from the ground."
    He has spent a lifetime raising awareness about the plight of animals and witnessed first-hand the impact humans have on the natural world.
    Yet as the first ever continent-wide wildlife survey revealed this week that poaching has caused a 30% decline in the African elephant population, it's hard to be optimistic. What more should governments be doing to prevent this?
    "The sale of ivory, certainly of ivory collected no more than 100 years old, should be illegal. I don't see any way of getting around it," Attenborough tells Amanpour.
    It may come as a bit of a surprise that as someone who's been to every corner of this planet and even experienced zero gravity, he's not at all interested in going to space.
    "There's no animals there," he says. "There are no flowers there!"
    Of course. But don't worry. Attenborough has no intention of slowing down. So who knows where he'll take us next?