It took less than five hours for David Attenborough to break Instagram's record for the fastest accumulation of 1 million followers.
Britain's revered 94-year-old naturalist beat Jennifer Aniston's record by 32 minutes — an achievement he said has given him "important hope" for the future amid growing concerns over "the destruction of nature" and the looming threat of an irreversible climate emergency.
Attenborough told the BBC that young people are in the best position to drive change in a world that faces an increasingly precarious future. In seeking to reach a wider — and younger — audience, Instagram seemed like a good place to start: According to the statistics database Statista, about 70% of Instagram's worldwide users are younger than 35 and more than a third are younger than 25.
"It's their world, and it's their tomorrow," Attenborough said. "I won't be there. They will be." He added that he felt "privileged" that the platform's users were interested in "what an old bloke like me is talking about."
It was Thursday when Attenborough — star of the upcoming Netflix documentary "A Life on Our Planet" — used an Instagram video to venture beyond his familiar radio and television mediums in a bid to reach a significantly younger demographic.
"Hello," he says softly in a voice that is characteristically soothing, before going on to warn Instagram users that the world remains in grave danger unless people begin working together to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss.
"I'm making this move and exploring this new way of communication to me because, as we all know, the world is in trouble," he warns. "Continents are on fire. Glaciers are melting. Coral reefs are dying," he continues, before inviting users to join him on his mission to help solve some of Earth's most pressing problems.
The video has been viewed nearly 17 million times.
Attenborough told the BBC that he was willing to use "any medium" available to connect with people around the world to educate them on looming threats and advise them on how they could help protect the planet from myriad disasters.
"We have a responsibility," he said as he urged people not to waste food or electricity and to respect the natural world.
While Attenborough is not publishing updates to the platform himself — "Social media isn't David's usual habitat," wrote his "Life on Our Planet" collaborators, who are managing the account — he promised to record a series of Instagram videos about the future of the planet in the coming weeks. "Stay tuned," he says, smiling at the end of his first recording.
Attenborough's Instagram debut was widely celebrated. "Not all heroes wear capes" wrote one user. Another requested that the broadcasting legend begin posting videos on TikTok, too.
Last week, Attenborough headed to Kensington Palace for a socially distanced meeting with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge — Prince William and Catherine — and three of his biggest fans: their children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.
William joined the broadcaster for a private screening of his new Netflix documentary, which explores the changes that world has experienced at the hands of humans.
"This film is my witness statement and my vision for the future," Attenborough says in the trailer, which promises to tell the story of his life's work in the wild and what the world needs to do to reverse decades of devastating damage.
After the outdoor viewing of his latest project, Attenborough was photographed laughing with the family and gave 7-year-old Prince George — who is third in line to the British throne — a fossilized shark's tooth that he found while on vacation in Malta during the 1960s.
The prince showed interest in the ancient tooth, which once belonged to the extinct megatooth shark species known as Carcharocles megalodon — reportedly the largest shark that ever lived. Attenborough collected fossils as a young child before carving out a career as one of Britain's most successful scientific storytellers.
But Prince George is not the only person to be wowed by the 23 million-year-old fossil.
Maltese Culture Minister Jose Herrera told the Times of Malta on Monday that the country would like the prehistoric treasure returned to its original home, promising that he would "get the ball rolling" on its safe return.
"There are some artifacts that are important to Maltese natural heritage and which ended up abroad and deserve to be retrieved," Herrera said.
Attenborough later told the Times of London that the three children were "charming." Photos showed an apparently star-struck Princess Charlotte clutching her face in bewilderment as she gazed up at the Attenborough, who beamed back at her.
Discussing Britain's nationwide shutdown, imposed in March amid the global health crisis, Attenborough said he passed weeks of stay-home measures "listening to birds" as he sat in his garden.
"A lot of people have suddenly realized what deep, profound joy can come from witnessing the rest of the world — the natural world," he said as he reflected on how the pandemic has changed human behavior and united people in the face of tragedy.