Chris Packham: “Let pandas die”

The Autumnwatch host tells Radio Times his controversial opinions about conserving wildlife

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Autumnwatch presenter Chris Packham is a champion of nature and wildlife – just not all of it. “We pour millions of pounds into panda conservation,” he tells Radio Times. “I reckon we should pull the plug. Let them go, with a degree of dignity.”

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It’s not the attitude you’d immediately expect of a BBC wildlife presenter and vice-president of the RSPB, but he also doesn’t think it’s going to happen: “Here’s a species that, of its own accord, has gone down an evolutionary cul-de-sac. It’s not a strong species. Unfortunately, pandas are big and cute and a symbol of the World Wildlife Fund.”

He’s angry about what he calls “T-shirt animals” and believes we should put farmers before wildlife. “Farming policy has trashed this countryside more than any other part of Western Europe. Go into the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with a flamethrower and torch all of the stupid bureaucracy that dogs our farmers. Let’s start organising fair pricing for UK farmers.”

Speaking of dogs – or, rather, their owners – Packham has something to say to them: keep them on leads in areas like the New Forest so they don’t scare off the birds: “Forty-five per cent of species here are ground nesting: meadow pippets, curlew, stonechats. There are 25,000 hours of dog walking per day in the New Forest, dumping 10,000kg of crap.”

Cats are not much more of a favourite, either. He argues they should be neutered, fitted with bleeping collars and not let out at night: “Nocturnal predation accounts for 50 per cent of the things they kill – frogs, bats, mammals. Sixty million songbirds a year are killed by cats.”

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He’s not all that in favour of people, either. When he’s asked in the new issue of Radio Times which animal he wouldn’t mind seeing made extinct, he says: “Human beings. No question. That’s the only one.”