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WINNERS 2018

Steve Backshall

TV presenter, campaigner, writer and conservationist who has instilled a love of animals and nature in millions of children and young people.

steve

Steve’s love of animals started when he was a child growing up on a smallholding in Surrey surrounded by weird and wonderful pets.

He was climbing trees and catching beetles almost as soon as he could crawl, and would milk the goats before heading to school.

He was fixated on blackbirds and grass snakes, and counted the dogs, cats and an asthmatic donkey he shared his days with as his best friends. The budding zoologist was passionate about learning too, and was always armed with a new nature fact to share.

His parents inspired his love of the natural world and travel. They worked for an airline, and his school holidays would be spent exploring India and Africa.

After travelling the world as a young graduate, Steve spent time writing about Indonesia for Rough Guides before joining National Geographic to film nature and exploration programmes as the channel’s Adventurer in Residence.

From training with Israeli paratroopers to catching anacondas, his expertise and enthusiasm quickly won over viewers. In 2003 he joined the BBC’s natural history department to present flagship children’s programme The Really Wild Show. During his three years on the team, Steve shared a beach with 75,000 nesting olive ridley sea turtles, held hands with a baby mountain gorilla and had a red-eyed tree frog leap into his face.

During every encounter, the presenter’s boyish enthusiasm and encyclopaedic knowledge were perfect for inspiring the next generation of animal-lovers. Steve moved on to make a series of documentaries for the BBC, narrowly avoiding being swallowed by a humpback whale in Alaska, discovering 40 new species in Papua New Guinea and enduring the stings of hundreds of bullet ants in an initiation ceremony in Brazil.

In 2009, his most successful show – Deadly 60 – was first broadcast on CBBC. For each series Steve and his crew travelled the world to seek out 60 more of the world’s most deadly animals.

The programme’s focus on animals’ predatory behaviour – and Steve’s attempts to recreate it – made it a global hit with kids, with spin-off shows including Deadly Pole to Pole and Deadly Dinosaurs.

In 2011, his work was recognised with a BAFTA for Best Children’s Television Presenter, with Deadly 60 named Best Factual Series. He also has a Blue Peter Gold Badge, a rare honour for adults and only awarded to those who are extraordinary role models to children.

Steve also found time to return to his first love, writing, producing books about animals, nature and conservation for children and young people, including the best-selling Falcon Chronicles.

He has gone on to present the hugely popular series Big Blue Live and Wild Alaska Live. He also received critical acclaim for his canoeing expedition on one of the world’s wildest rivers, the Baliem in New Guinea, for Down The Mighty River with Steve Backshall. Steve was also on our screens in Extreme Mountain Challenge, Fierce and, most recently, as a Springwatch guest presenter.

He is currently filming a new prime-time adventure series for the BBC, UKTV and Fremantle Media International.

Steve believes that getting kids outside at an early age is vital to encourage them to love nature and the environment.

He works with charitable groups focussed on conservation and young people, including Buglife, Cubs, The Wildlife Trust, Shark Trust, The World Land Trust, Bite-Back Shark and Marine Conservation, Manta Trust and the Young People’s Trust for the Environment.

He is constantly finding new ways to connect with his young audience, going on sell-out speaking tours in the UK and Australia. Deadly Days Out, which he hosted, has taken live animals to thousands and thousands of people across the UK. Over the past few years he has shared his knowledge and experience with 300,000 fans.

He is a real-life action hero who shows you don’t need to be macho to succeed, balancing out his high-octane pursuits with a genuine love of the natural world – and a decent quickstep, as demonstrated on Strictly Come Dancing in 2014.

Steve’s latest adventure is just starting – being dad to baby Logan, who was born in July and is his first child with wife and multiple gold medal-winning rower Helen Glover.

Steve, 45, said: “I appreciate that I’m in the privileged situation of getting to spend my entire life outdoors with wildlife, and I know first-hand how good it makes you feel. It’s a message I have to try to get across to kids because I can see the dangers that normal modern life exact upon children.

“I’m very keen not to hammer a message of hardcore conservation but to wrap it up like a sweetie in a parcel of thrill and adventure, and make it as cool as possible. I try to make kids aspire to the kind of things I get to do all the time because I know they’ll love it.”

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