Chris Packham on Narrating New National Geographic Shows and His Vegan Diet

Chris Packham in 2019 giving a speech atop a bus stop during the Extinction Rebellion protest on Waterloo Bridge in London.  Photo: Victoria Jones/PA Archives/PA Pictures.
Chris Packham in 2019 giving a speech atop a bus stop during the Extinction Rebellion protest on Waterloo Bridge in London. Photo: Victoria Jones/PA Archives/PA Pictures.

The presenter and conservationist, 60, voices the wild tiger of Russia and the wildcats of Thailand for National Geographic’s annual Big Cats Week WILD.

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Wild Tiger from Russia follows the battle for the survival of big cats, including exploring the plight of Siberian tigers, while Wild Cats from Thailand explores the jungles that are home to some of the world’s rarest wild cats, including the clouded leopard and the Indian fishing cat.

A tiger photographed in National Geographic’s WILD Wild Tiger of Russia. Photo: WILD from National Geographic.

Packham, who presents the BBC’s Springwatch, Autumnwatch and Winterwatch programmes, says he loved voicing the Big Cat Week programmes.

He said: “I like the idea of ​​these weeks that we have – they turn more into a celebration. And I think rather than having a one-time program that can generate a bit of interest, if you have a week of programming, it tends to target people more.

“National Geographic also runs its big cat initiative, where they fund research and conservation.

“So there are ulterior motives and I obviously defend and support that. If you have a week, it’s more than a concert, it’s a festival.

He adds that “what I love about this style of cinema is that some parts are what I would call a kind of long-form narrative”.

“A lot of times when we watch programs now, documentaries about animals, we see pretty short footage, and it gives us remarkable insight into their behavior and ecology, but we don’t see it in real time.”

How important are animal shows to raise awareness of the natural world?

“I always say that wildlife programs are a great way to generate interest, but they won’t be able to fully satisfy it.

“I think wildlife programs, especially programs like this, have a much stronger conservation message than before.

“And again, obviously, Nat Geo, they have their initiative running alongside that, which is proactively conserving and researching animals, and that comes to the fore.

And of course, I’m very happy to see that.

“I wish it went even further, frankly, because a lot of these species, well all the species of cats that we see, even leopards now, are struggling in some areas…

“So it’s very important to stress that this is not a pipe dream – these animals are in trouble.

“And if we don’t help them, it will backfire on everyone, including us. I don’t think we’ve reached that point.

Do people need to make longer-term changes?

“My life is now a constant audit, I constantly look at what I do, how I do it and think about how I can do it in a more sustainable, yet regenerative way.

“I think we have to constantly ask ourselves, what are we doing? How do we travel? What are we eating? What do we buy other than food?

” All these things. And obviously, there are a plethora of ways to have a less damaging impact on the planet and its wildlife, and by simply changing the way we live.

He adds: “Now I am vegan, and have been for some time; if you reduce, I’m happy, because it’s going in the right direction.

National Geographic’s annual Big Cat Week begins on WILD on Monday, February 7 with Russia’s Wild Tiger.