Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Conservation has been transformed

Sir David Attenborough gives his opening address at WLT’s 25th Anniversary Celebration.

At the 25th Anniversary celebration of World Land Trust (WLT), Sir David Attenborough reflects on the important role played by WLT in the international conservation movement. Extracts from his opening address:

“How do you know where you are unless you know where you’ve come from?

“People began to notice that individual species of animals and plants, but mostly animals, were becoming rarer and rarer.

“A group of naturalists, scientists and administrators got together and started the conservation movement. The emphasis in those days was very much on species, and the people then said ‘we must do something about it’, very commendably.

“The initial reaction, believe it or not, was to find the survivors and put them in zoos. Looking back at it now, perhaps it wasn’t as sensible as we all thought then. You realise that actually you couldn’t just take them from a zoo pen and put them out in the wild world, because they didn’t know about the wild world and they didn’t know how to survive.

“Conservation has been transformed, and WLT is at one of the cutting edges of that transformation.”
Sir David Attenborough, WLT Patron

“People were beginning to get a little more sophisticated about what conservation meant, it wasn’t about just one species, however charismatic it might be. It was, to use a word that was surprisingly less familiar than it is today, about ecosystems. They discovered that some species could be conserved in quite a small area but other species required huge areas.

“Again there was a subtle shift, a shift to realise if you wanted to conserve the world, and to conserve the species that were in it, you had to take a big section of land. Conservation was about planet, wild areas of the planet. If you’re going to conserve nature, you have to conserve the whole community, and within that community a strange, powerful animal called Homo sapiens. That too had to be thought about and catered for.

“It didn’t matter whether people on the other side of the earth were simply prepared to give money if, in fact, the people themselves living on these lands, living alongside the creatures that we were so concerned about, weren’t aware of the situation and weren’t in sympathy with what was going on.

“WLT now is a major factor in many parts of the world.”
Sir David Attenborough, WLT Patron

“It was at this point that WLT with John Burton began to formulate important ideas. And so the notion grew that not only would WLT raise money, but that it would also raise expertise to help people with conservation knowledge, gleaned from all around the world, to solve those conservation problems.

“But the people, the indigenous people, the local people were central to all this.

“WLT now is a major factor in many parts of the world, channelling funds, help and expertise into those areas where they are so badly needed, but leaving the ultimate control with the people that live on that land 365 days of the year.

“Conservation has been transformed, and WLT is at one of the cutting edges of that transformation.

“If there is one shaft of light and hope in looking ahead at what’s going to happen, it is in my view that which you see when you see the history of WLT and the generosity which people who help WLT have helped it to spread its influence worldwide.”

25th Anniversary logo

Sir David Attenborough made these remarks in the opening address of WLT’s 25th Anniversary Celebration which took place on 6 May 2014 at BAFTA’s Princess Anne Theatre in Piccadilly.
Friends, supporters and project partners mark WLT’s 25th Anniversary »

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