Chris Packham and Megan McCullin

Winterwatch star Chris Packham: Why death threats and an arson attack will not silence him

Winterwatch returns tonight to BBC Two, along with its most controversial presenter

Chris Packham returns to BBC Two tonight (January 16) for a new series of Winterwatch. The naturalist is a familiar face on British TV screens, fronting various nature programmes of the BBC. That’s despite receiving a huge amount of harassment for his work.

He’s no stranger to courting controversy, with his activism sparking huge backlashes over the years.

Here’s everything you need to know about Chris Packham, his career, his activism, and the harassment he’s received.

Chris Packham on Winterwatch 2024
Chris Packham on Winterwatch (Credit: BBC/Jo Charlesworth)

Who is Chris Packham?

Christopher Gary Packham CBE is a British naturalist, best known for his work as a TV presenter. He’s presented BBC Two’s Springwatch, as well as spin-offs Autumnwatch and Winterwatch, since 2009.

Chris received a CBE in Queen Elizabeth II‘s 2019 New Year Honours for services to nature conservation.

How old is Chris Packham?

Chris was born in Southampton on May 4, 1961. As of January 2024, he is 62 years old.

What is Chris Packham famous for? His TV presenting work

You’re most likely to recognise Chris from the BBC Two nature shows Springwatch, Autumnwatch and Winterwatch. Chris is the longest-serving presenter on the shows, having been with the series since 2009. Though Autumnwatch was cancelled last year, Chris continues to front Springwatch and Winterwatch.

Chris has worked with the BBC on a number of other shows, mostly covering nature-related subjects. His presenting career began in 1986 with BAFTA-winning CBBC series The Really Wild Show. He worked on the show until 1995.

For the BBC, he’s also fronted The Animal’s Guide to Britain (2011), Secrets of Our Living Planet (2012), Operation Iceberg (2012), The Burrowers (2013), Inside the Animal Mind (2014), The Wonder of Animals (2014), World’s Weirdest Events (2015), World Sneakiest Animals (2015), Cats v Dogs: Which is Best? (2016), Me and My Dog: The Ultimate Contest (2017), Curious Creatures (2017), Blue Planet Live (2019), Horizon – Chris Packham: 7.7 Billion People and Counting (2020), Animal Einsteins (2021) and Earth (2023).

His talents also make him a natural fit for the National Geographic Channel. For them, Chris fronted Earth Live in 2017, followed by Yellowstone Live in 2018.

Chris Packham on Inside Our Autistic Minds
Chris Packham on Inside Our Autistic Minds (Credit: BBC / Richard Ansett)

Chris Packham documentary Inside Our Autistic Minds

Chris has also made multiple TV show appearance discussing his life as an autistic person. In 2017, he appeared in the BBC film Asperger’s and Me, where he examined the US’s approach to autism. In 2023, he presented BBC autism documentary Inside Our Autistic Minds.

As a household name, Chris appears as a celebrity on entertainment shows such as Celebrity Gogglebox (2023), Pointless Celebrities (2012-2022) and Celebrity Mastermind (which he won in 2011).

He can also be found on British talk shows including The Last Leg (2023), The One Show (2006-2022), Sunday Brunch (2017-2021), This Morning (2012-2021), Lorraine (2019) and Loose Women (2010-2018).

What is Chris Packham famous for? His activism

Chris is just as famous for his activism as his TV work, despite the harassment he’s received.

He is a passionate campaigner for animal welfare, and has been the President of the RSPCA since 2023. He was previously Vice President for the charity for 15 years.

With the RSPCA, Chris campaigned to ban fox hunting and badger culling. He spoke out against the use of glue traps and wearing animal fur. He also threw his support behind the 2021 Act Now for Animals Green Paper, which offers 40 recommendations to improve the lives of animals in Britain.

Chris also cares deeply for the conservation of natural habitats, going so far as to file legal action against HS2 plans in 2020. He believes following through with HS2 would destroy up to 700 natural habitats.

As one might expect, Chris also feels strongly about climate change. In 2010, he told the Daily Telegraph: “The human population is sowing the seeds of a mass extinction event. The fact is there is not enough space.”

He advocates for controlling population size and fellow humans being more thoughtful over their eating habits.

Chris is also infamous over his stance on I’m A Celebrity: Get Me Out of Here! He believes the show allows and glorifies the abuse of animals, an opinion he has stated many times over the show’s run.

Last year, he wrote an open letter to presenters Ant and Dec over the series.

He wrote: “You may see little to no connection between the global extermination event that humans are precipitating and IACGMOOH but its all about attitudes and education.

“Without a fundamental respect for life, all life, it is difficult for those of us who care to bring enough people on board to initiate essential action to protect and actively restore the worlds wildlife.”

The Winterwatch 2024 team: Iolo Williams, Michaela Strachan, Gillian Burke and Chris Packham
The Winterwatch 2024 team, also including Iolo Williams, Michaela Strachan and Gillian Burke (Credit: BBC/Jo Charlesworth)

Harassment Chris Packham has experienced for his views

As a public figure with strong views, Chris is no stranger to harassment.

He has suffered online and offline harassment throughout his career, though things escalated in 2019 after his campaign group Wild Justice saw a victory regulating the indiscriminate shooting of various birds.

Chris received vicious death threats and opponents left dead crows hanging at his gate.

In October 2021, Chris’ house was subject to an arson attack. The attack came the day before he delivered a petition to Buckingham Palace, calling for the royals to improve nature conservation on their estates.

After the attack, Chris told social media followers that finding dead animals left outside his home – including badgers and foxes – had become “normal”.

Nonetheless, he vowed to continue his work as an activist. Speaking directly to the arsonists, he said: “I cannot let your intimidation sway me from my course. If you think that by burning down those gates I’m suddenly going to become a supporter of unsustainable or illegal shooting, the unwarranted savagery brought upon foxes in our countryside when they are torn to pieces by dogs, then you’re wrong.

“I will, of course, just carry on – because I have no choice.”

Is Chris Packham vegan?

Chris Packham is indeed a vegan and has spoken of his decision to go plant-based multiple times.

Having been a vegetarian for more than 30 years, Chris decided to go vegan after completing Veganuary in 2019.

Speaking to The Big Issue, Chris stated: “Like many people in the world, I have had an interest in how what I eat impacts on the environment and on myself for a long time.

“But I continue to have concerns about animal welfare and transportation. I don’t see any difference between the way I should treat my dog – who I love and whose well-being I’m preoccupied with – and a pig, who is just as intelligent and important as Scratchy, but is kept in a concrete pen where it can’t turn around.”

Does Chris Packham have a partner?

Chris is in a long-term relationship with Charlotte Corney, who runs the Wildheart Animal Sanctuary on the Isle of Wight. Her family have owned the zoo since the 1970s, before Charlotte took over the business in 2003.

Chris and Charlotte met through the zoo in 2007. They have been together for more than a decade, though do not live together.

Speaking to The Different Minds podcast in 2021, Chris said he and Charlotte had no plans to marry. He said: “It’s all about animals at the moment, we have to concentrate on them.”

Chis Packham and Megan McCubbin in Chris and Meg's Summer Road Trip
Chis Packham and Megan McCubbin in Chris and Meg’s Summer Road Trip (Credit: BBC NHU/Jack Tunnicliffe)

Does Chris Packham have a daughter? What is Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin’s relationship?

Chris has no biological children, but he does have a stepdaughter – Megan McCubbin – from a previous relationship.

The pair have plenty in common! Megan is also a zoologist, and has worked alongside Chris on some of his presenting gigs. Megan’s made appearances on Springwatch (2020-2023), Autumnwatch (2020) and Winterwatch (2021-2023), as well as co-hosting Chris and Meg’s Wild Summer in 2021. She also appeared in Chris Packham: Asperger’s and Me. The pair also contributed their TV opinions to Celebrity Gogglebox in 2023.

Aside from working with Chris, Megan’s other TV appearances include Animal Defenders (2021) and Animal Park (2022)

Which binoculars does Chris Packham use?

It makes sense a keen naturalist would have the best binoculars, so we can definitely understand where this question came from.

The answer is that he’s got a few!

For beginner birdwatchers, he recommends the Canon 10×32 IS binoculars. Speaking to Canon, Chris said: “I’ve used Canon’s 10×32 IS binoculars since they first came out. They live in my kitchen cupboard because I’ve got a window nearby from which I look out onto my bird feeders.”

He says his favourite camera is the Canon EOS 5DS R, but he also loves the Canon EOS R5. To go with them, he uses the lightweight Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM lens, which he describes as a “game changer”.

Winterwatch starts Tuesday January 16 at 8pm on BBC Two.

Read more: Ant and Dec blasted over ‘appalling’ animal cruelty as Chris Packham slams I’m A Celebrity

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Susan Brett
TV Writer