A Minute With: producer Mike Gunton on working with naturalist David Attenborough

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(Reuters) - Veteran British naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough turns 98 on May 8, but according to his longtime collaborator Mike Gunton, he has no plans to retire.

Gunton, who is Creative Director of the Natural History Unit at the BBC, first met Attenborough in the 1980s working on animal behaviour show "The Trials of Life". The two have since made acclaimed programmes such as nature series "Planet Earth", wildlife show "Life" and "The Green Planet", about plants.

In an interview with Reuters, Gunton reflected on his relationship with Attenborough and the broadcaster's work.

Below are excerpts edited for length and brevity.

Q: What has your working relationship with David meant to you?

Gunton: "I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to make the programmes that he's been a key part of, which would never have been seen and appreciated and loved by so many people without him front and centre."

Q: What is it like working with David?

Gunton: "Every time you go on location with David it's fun. He's got an amazing sense of humour. He's a fantastic anecdote raconteur. He offers opportunities to go places and see things that you would never normally see with your eyes."

Q: What is the key message at the heart of David's work?

Gunton: "He has always had a curiosity about the natural world but always had concern for its vulnerability. He must be unique in that nobody is an eyewitness like he is of the change that has happened across the natural world, often because he's been back to the same places. That's why he's such a powerful advocate because you can't argue. He's seen it with his own eyes."

Q: What is David most proud of?

Gunton: "He's undoubtedly proud of the sheer scale of the body of work, that almost every aspect of the natural world at some point he has been able to tell a story about and engage millions upon millions of people around the world."

Q: What has David's role been in developing the way his nature documentaries resonate?

Gunton: "It's a group effort but he is the best storyteller of all. He's a genius when it comes to unfolding a story that is both powerful, beautiful and sometimes quite sobering, in a way that audiences will accept and absorb. I think that's going to be a very hard thing for anyone else to do."

Q: Will David ever retire?

Gunton: "Somebody did ask him this the other day, and he said, 'Retirement, retirement? I don't even know the word'. It's never going to happen."

(Reporting by Sarah Mills; Editing by Gareth Jones)