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At 87, Attenborough still chasing flying creatures in Borneo jungles

KOTA KINABALU: While our economists are busy scratching their heads and thinking on what to do with Malaysia becoming an aging society by 2021, here in Sabah we see a British gentleman, who, at the advanced age of 87, is actively chasing flying creatures in the jungles of Borneo trying to capture them on film for viewers of BBC.

Sir David Attenborough, Britain's well-known natural history filmmaker, is back at Danum Valley Forest Conservation area in Lahad Datu district of Sabah with a 45-man crew to film a documentary, “Conquest of the Skies”, in 3D.

They are in the forests there from Feb 27 to March 10 documenting Sabah's many flying insects, amphibians, reptiles and small mammals, such as frogs, lizards, snakes, squirrels and colugos.

This is the fourth visit for Attenborough to Sabah, the first being in 1974 to the Gomantong Caves in the Lower Kinabatangan area where there is an intricate limestone cave system and home for massive populations of swiftlets and their valuable nests and bats.

At a media conference here prior to their filming mission in the jungle, Attenborough spoke forthrightly about his state of health and age. When asked how he is able to keep fit and still on the move at the age of 87, he quipped, “Whisky!”

After a good laugh all round, he added: “I don't do anything special and I certainly don't run around parks; I don't do this on bicycles. I don't do anything. I just live the normal sort of way.”

In other words, some good Scotch whisky has somewhat helped Sir David Attenborough going strong in his ripe old age!

During his last journey into the wilds of Borneo, he was literally hoisted up a mangaris tree so that he could get up close to see a giant bee hive.

Whilst walking across the jungles floors might still be okay for Sir David, could he still move up the trees this time?

This seasoned British broadcaster who is used to shooting straight, gave this reply: “I am a bit heavier for the poor chap pulling me up but otherwise, it's alright. I don't walk as much as I did; I don't climb trees as much as I did.”

But he is grateful for what he could still do, saying, “I am lucky that I can still stand up and it's a lovely thing to do... and if you could still walk about, it seems ungrateful not to do things. I mean the good Lord gives you these things you might as well use them.”

He is also grateful that Atlantic Production, producer of the BBC documentary, has employed him at this age, saying that he is extremely lucky that people want him to go on making films

The 3D documentary is a two-part series, the first being on insects which are considered the first creatures that ever flew whereas the second part is on animals with backbones like flying frogs, flying snakes, birds and bats.

Attenborough is full of praise for the rich biodiversity on Borneo. “The whole of Borneo's biodiversity is a great hotspot in the world. It rivals the Amazon, the Congo, that sort of areas of high rainforest.

“Borneo is amazingly rich and we still don't know how huge it is. In terms of conservation, one of the great hopes for the world is what is happening here.”

He was referring to the “Heart of Borneo Initiative”, a commitment by Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia to conserve a total of 240,000 sq km or about two million hectares of rainforests across the central part of Borneo.

“Different countries getting together making an international area for conservation – a wonderful example. A lot of problems, I know, but if it happens and is secured, it's a huge example.”

His final word on age and retirement?

“When you retire, you don't stop living.” And Sir David Attenborough could see himself making films, “Until I fall over!”

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