Sir David Attenborough writes back to Cardiff boy, 4, who is concerned about human extinction

  • Mum moved by inspiring letter from Sir David Attenborough

A mum from Cardiff has expressed her astonishment and delight after her son received a handwritten letter from Sir David Attenborough.

The "beautiful" letter was addressed to Otis Allen, 4, who had written to Sir David to ask whether humans would become extinct like the dinosaurs.

His mum, Gerry Holt, a senior communications officer at Cardiff University, explained how she had been putting Otis to bed when the "curveball question" came up.

"I just thought, how am I supposed to answer this question?" she said.

"I thought, maybe honesty is the best policy here, so I basically said 'I don't know the answer to that, but I hope not'."

It got Gerry thinking about who could answer the question - and she came up with Sir David Attenborough, who Otis had recently become a big fan of.

"He's become really interested in Venus flytraps lately, and he hit upon these videos of David Attenborough talking about them and has just watched them over and over to the point where he can quote them," Gerry explained.

"From that we talked a bit about who he is, and described him as a superhero for the planet."

Otis created a dinosaur-themed card to accompany his letter. Credit: Gerry Holt

She and Otis then spent an afternoon writing the letter, accompanied by a hand-drawn dinosaur card, and posted it without any expectations of hearing back.

So when a letter came through the door from Sir David himself, Gerry said she was astonished.

The letter read: "Dear Otis, thank you for your letter.

"You ask whether human beings will become extinct as the dinosaurs have become.

"The answer is that we need not do so as long as we look after our planet properly.

"Best wishes, David Attenborough."

The letter written by Sir David Attenborough. Credit: Gerry Holt

Gerry thought it was "the most beautiful, lovely gesture."

She said: "Just to picture this 94-year-old conservationist sitting down at his desk in Richmond, and writing this little note to Otis, who's only four, you know, ninety years between them, I just thought there was something really wonderful and inspiring about that.

"Otis was delighted, but I don't think he fully understands the significance of it all - just how amazing it is that he's had that reply.

"But hopefully if we frame it and show it to him when he's a bit older, he'll think that's pretty special."

Sir David Attenborough addressed the concerns of a four-year-old boy from Cardiff in a handwritten letter. Credit: PA Images

At just four years old, Otis is continuing to ask big questions, including: "Mummy, are aliens extinct like the dinosaurs?

"I just thought, who am I going to get to answer this one now?" Gerry said.

"He's at the beginning of the journey to understanding our impact on the planet. I think it's so important that children growing up knowing and understanding this.

"Some people might say it's too young and you don't want to scare children, but it's in their hands ultimately.

"He keeps asking how we can stop climate change, and understands the ideas of using the car less, recycling and eating less meat."

Gerry said the letter has been hugely inspiring for Otis, who was already interested in environmental issues. Credit: Gerry Holt

Sir David Attenborough has long been a voice for environmental causes, but has ramped up his calls for action against climate change in several of his most recent series.

Gerry said she has been a fan of Sir David's since she was Otis' age - describing him as "an absolute giant in his field."

She added: "The amazing thing about him is his ability to inspire and engage people of all ages.

"He'll do these UN climate change talks and be the keynote speaker of that, but then on the flip side, he's happy to write to a young boy about dinosaurs.

"We already knew he was a wonderful man, but this is just the icing on the cake for us."

  • Gerry shared a message of gratitude for Sir David

As someone who works in science communications, Gerry particularly admires Sir David for his bid to inspire young people to care for the planet.

"His work is just encouraging so many kids of Otis' age to be interested in the planet and looking after our home.

"Maybe it will produce many more little David Attenboroughs in future."

Gerry has always thought of Sir David as a national treasure, but said she has come to realise "he is way beyond that - he's a planetary treasure."

"He is one of a kind."

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