Young naturalists ‘extinct in Britain’

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Young naturalists have become an “extinct” species in the British countryside, Sir David Attenborough and Chris Packham have warned.

TV veteran Sir David and the Autumnwatch presenter said legislation designed to protect the countryside had made it impossible for young enthusiasts to enjoy it.

Packham, interviewing Sir David for the Radio Times, said: “When it comes to children, the one species that is extinct in the British countryside is the young naturalist. I’m out there all the time and I just don’t see the boy that I was and you were. That’s a disaster in waiting, isn’t it?”

Sir David replied: “Yes, and part of the reason for that is easy to identify, and that is because it’s no longer allowed, no longer legal, to be a collector. I openly admit that I collected birds’ eggs.

“And I knew, I bet like you did, when the right moment was when you could take one, and the bird would lay another, so you didn’t damage the population, and I learnt a lot.

“Now, I think it’s in the ledger of law, if you wanted to be pedantic, if you were to pick up a feather and put it in your pocket it would probably not be legal. And not to be allowed to collect fossils...”

Packham said: “It’s very sad. I can’t believe that future generations will learn their trade on television, on the internet and in libraries, because the passion has to come from the heart.

“You’ve got to want to set your alarm clock to go out and sit in a hide. Young people in particular are so disconnected from the natural world. It’s a shame to think that there aren’t kids out there.”

Asked about his predictions for the future, Sir David told the magazine: “I don’t think that humanity is going to disappear within the next couple of million years because it is omnivorous, highly adaptable and very powerful. I suspect humanity will stagger on, though not quite as luxuriously.”