Education: “It is the uninitiated that matter…

…They are the majority, and until more of them are made conservation conscious all or efforts will be wasted.” – Maxwell Knight (The Frightened Face of Nature – unpublished – Chapter XV). “Laws, rules and regulations will not themselves solve the problems of the future of wildlife,” wrote Knight in 1964 “It is only by education…

Why can’t we all become amateur naturalists?

It is nigh impossible to change the culture of a business let alone change the culture of a planet; however, it is possible – but everything’s against us. Which is why we all need to start today. Take, for example, the food that we eat: how on Earth (literally!) are we going to provide enough…

Ministers reject second request to use banned bee-harming pesticides

“Campaigners welcome decision to turn down National Farming Union’s application for ‘emergency’ use of neonicotinoids for oil seed rape, ” reports The Guardian today (8 July). Dave Timms, Friends of the Earth’s bee campaigner, described the government’s move as “great news for bees and other wildlife”. But he said the victory is at risk following the EU…

Chapter IV – goodbye to wildlife?

In this heartfelt chapter of The Frightened Face of Nature, Maxwell Knight drops his guard and invites the reader to consider the unthinkable – “the virtual disappearance of nature”. “Does such a question as that heading this chapter stem from the neurotic imaginings of a fanatic,” he asks, “or is it one that can reasonably be…

Maxwell Knight sang praises of the amateur naturalist

Maxwell Knight played a significant part in a number of fields; herpetology was his particular love and he produced a number of scientific papers on this subject as well as adding to national and local records and, through his books and broadcasts, encouraging an appreciation of reptiles and amphibians amongst the British public. The filing cabinet contains letters…

So what sort of person was the real-life “M”?

To answer that question, we need to better understand the contrast between Maxwell Knight’s (recently publicised) life as one of Britain’s most talented World War II spymaster’s – the original ‘M’ – and that of an early (largely unpublicised) environmentalist. Clearly he was an incredibly gifted man who had a sixth sense for identifying and…

How to Keep a Gorilla

On the 30th May 1967, Wolfe Publishing posted a book contract to Maxwell Knight to confirm terms for the fairly tongue-in-cheek “How to Keep a Gorilla.” The publisher wanted “something quite simple” – they wanted him to duplicate his previous book “How to Keep an Elephant” and they agreed to pay him the same terms. Inside the…

Desert Island Discs: Roy Plomley’s castaway is naturalist Maxwell Knight

On Monday 28 June 1965 at 13:10 on the BBC Home Service, Maxwell Knight was Roy Plomley’s castaway on Desert Island Discs and his favourite track was The Waiter, the Porter and the Upstairs Maid by Bing Crosby & Mary Martin. His favourite book: The Cambridge Natural History  Luxury: Microscope Unfortunately, this episode is not currently available on BBC…

What’s a “cuckoo nest plot?”

It’s been a bad week for Boris Johnson; brought to his knees by a “cuckoo nest plot” reports The Telegraph. The Cuckoo, however, has its own problems as its population is in freefall: “since the early 1980s Cuckoo numbers have dropped by 65%,” says the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and “the reason for this…