Life

TV Quickfire: Chris Packham on return of National Geographic's Big Cat Week

National Geographic's Big Cat Week is back. We found out more from narrator, presenter and wildlife enthusiast Chris Packham...

Chris Packham and his step daughter Megan in 2019
Gemma Dunn

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM THE PROGRAMMES?

Well, firstly, I like the idea of these weeks that we have – they turn into more of a celebration. And I think that rather than having a one-off programme which can generate a bit of interest, if you have a week of programming, it tends to focus people more.

National Geographic run their big cat initiative as well, where they provide funding for research and conservation. So there are ulterior motives and I obviously champion and support that. If you have a week it's more than a gig, it's a festival.

HOW IMPORTANT ARE WILDLIFE SHOWS?

I always say that wildlife programmes are a great way of instigating an interest, but they won't be able to fully satisfy it. I think wildlife programmes, particularly programmes like this, have a much stronger conservation message now than they used to have. And again, obviously, Nat Geo, they've got their initiative which runs in parallel with this, which is about proactively conserving and researching the animals, and that's coming to the fore. And obviously, I'm very pleased to see that.

I'd like to see it go even further, frankly, because many of these species, well all of the cat species that we look at, even leopards now, are in trouble in some parts. So it's really important to highlight that it's not a utopia out there – these animals are struggling. And if we don't help them, then it's going to backfire for everyone, including us. I don't think we've reached that point.

DO PEOPLE NEED TO MAKE MORE LONGER-TERM CHANGES?

Obviously there are a plethora of ways that we can have a less damaging impact on the planet and its wildlife simply changing the way that we live. There is no ambiguity that we as a planet are eating too much meat. I have been vegan for some time; and if you cut down, I'm happy, because that's moving in the right direction.

When I'm campaigning on these issues, essentially what I'm doing is I'm asking people to change their minds more quickly than they're comfortable with. Some will think, 'He's got a point, I'll have a think about that', some will think 'Well, that's not for me', and then others are going to say, 'actually, this bloke is a troublemaker, we've got to push back'. And their way of pushing back isn't about compromise or dialogue, it's about terrorism and bullying.

DO YOU ENJOY WORKING WITH YOUR STEPDAUGHTER, MEGAN?

We are of the same mindset. We are equally supportive of each other's predicament – that we have no choice; we've got to try and change things, because that's what we're here for. We've evolved into having a mission.

I used to be someone who just liked wildlife, who studied it scientifically, who made TV programmes about it, because I was enthusiastic about it. I now have to be someone that has to try and make a difference, whether it's planting trees in my garden or trying to convince an audience to support the big cat initiative, and help these magnificent animals, and Megs is of the same mindset.

Our mantra is really simple: any damage that they try to do to us, we will push back 10 times harder. A little while ago, they burned my gates down and it's left me with thousands of pounds worth of damage. I will pay to have new gates – but they will pay, because I will push back even harder.

:: National Geographic's annual Big Cat Week starts today on Wild with Russia's Wild Tiger.

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