• The 94-year-old naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, has spent 60 years on radio and television, but now he’s bringing his urgent message to a new medium – Instagram.
  • He’s beaten Friends star Jennifer Aniston’s record for reaching a million followers in the shortest time.
  • Sir David will use the platform to tell his followers how we can solve the world’s pressing problems: from climate change to biodiversity loss.

What do Jennifer Aniston and Sir David Attenborough have in common? Apart from appearing in hugely popular TV series, not a lot, you might think.

But the world-famous naturalist just beat the Friends actor’s record for reaching a million Instagram followers in the shortest time: 4 hours 44 minutes to be exact, compared to Aniston’s 5 hours 16 minutes last October.

And he’s doing it to spread his message: we need to save this planet we call home, before it’s too late.

He has wasted no time – in a video shared on Monday, when he’d notched up 4.5 million followers, he said some people were more aware of climate change than the loss of nature happening around us:

“We should be in no doubt, biodiversity loss, the destruction of nature, is as grave an issue as climate change. They both work together to destabilize the world we rely upon.”

Not his natural habitat

His first Instagram post was, naturally, a video, where he explained why he was taking to the social network for the first time, after 60 years in broadcasting.

"I am making this move and exploring this new way of communication to me because, as we all know, the world is in trouble.

“Continents are on fire. Glaciers are melting. Coral reefs are dying. Fish are disappearing from our oceans. The list goes on and on.

“But we know what to do about it and that’s why I’m tackling this new way, for me, of communication.”

In the coming weeks, he said he would be recording messages to explain what the problems are – and how we can deal with them.

“Join me… or as they used to say in those early days of radio, stay tuned.”

‘Vision for the future’

Sir David is known for being a pioneer in British broadcasting – from bringing wildlife into people’s homes and introducing colour television as controller of BBC2, to filming in 3D and Ultra HD.

The 94-year-old’s Instagram account is being run with the help of Jonnie Hughes and Colin Butfield, who co-directed and executive-produced (respectively) the documentary film David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet, made by Silverback Films and WWF.

Posts include clips from the film, which is his “witness statement” to the destruction of biodiversity and his “vision for the future”.

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In one clip from the film, he reminisces about seeing the Earth from space for the first time – when the Apollo mission sent back images in 1968 – and the mindset shift it caused.

In another video with Monty Python star and travel documentary maker Sir Michael Palin, he jokes about meeting a girl in Borneo who showed him a tattoo of his face – on her thigh.

And there’s also a photograph of him watching the film with his friend, Prince William.

Royal approval

The two are working together on the Earthshot Prize, which will recognize anyone making “a substantial development or outstanding contribution to solving our environmental challenges” over the coming decade.

Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge interviews naturalist Sir David Attenborough during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 22, 2019.
Prince William interviews naturalist Sir David Attenborough at Davos in 2019.
Image: REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

At the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in 2019, the Prince interviewed Sir David. He was in Davos to receive the Crystal Award for his leadership in the fight against climate change – and memorably told world leaders “the Garden of Eden is no more”.

He explained to Prince William why humans have been so slow to start to redress the negative impact we’re having on the planet: “The connection between the natural world and the urban world, the human society, since the Industrial Revolution, has been remote and widening.

“We didn’t realize the effects of what we were doing ‘out there’. But now we are seeing that almost everything we do has its echoes, its duplications and implications across the natural world. So we now have to really be careful what we do.”