Chris Packham likes the lynx effect

TV&Satellite Week talks to the Springwatch presenter about pop music, predators and poetry…

It’s been a long, cold winter. How will that affect this year’s show?
“There is always something to film. It is always going to be different. You are never going to have two similar springs. Remember, there are animals that like the cold and rain and they will have benefited. Our job is to unravel the winners and loser and show viewers the relationship between them.”

You live in the south of France… What is spring like down there?
“The only real difference is the relative abundance of some of the animals. So nightingales, cuckoos, turtles doves, all species which have really declined in the UK, are all relatively abundant in France. I hear them far more frequently, probably because there are more of them.”

Do you enjoy living in France?
“The truth of it is, as much as I enjoy going down there, it will never be home. There is something about the UK that I feel part of it. I’m made of it. France is a great place to have a house, but home is where the heart is.”

What was your first wildlife encounter?
“Mrs Greenwood, our neighbour, had a bush infested with ladybirds and I remember being a kid and having ladybirds on my finger. When I held them in my hand, they put a juice out of their stomach which is very distasteful and I remember having that on my fingers and licking it. It was predator defence, of course. I would collect the ladybirds and put them in matchboxes where they would die because matchboxes aren’t great environments for ladybirds.”

Your Springwatch colleague Michaela Strachan has published a book of animal poems. Would you ever do the same?
“It’s unlikely, though I did find a lot of poems the other day that I wrote when I was a teenager. It was basically a lot of teenage angst, and they were quite excruciating. They were a bit like The Smiths lyrics.”

In the past, you have slipped song lyrics from your favourite bands into Springwatch. Can we expect the same this time?
“I am running out of bands. It has to be bands which are accessible to everyone else. The Kitchens of Distinction are one of my favourite bands, but not a lot of other people know them. My own taste in music is quite limited and indie, so it is not going to be U2 or Coldplay because I’m not into them. I am a massive Clash fan, so maybe it will be them this time.”

We hear your stepdaughter, Megan, is following in your footsteps…
“She is studying environmental ecology, so I have to be quite sharp. She picked me up the other day. I was talking about bio-accumulation, and she looked at me and said, ‘You have got that completely wrong.’ Nobody likes to be sussed out by their kids.”

If you could introduce one animal into the British countryside, what would it be?
“It would have to be the lynx. There are 360,000 roe deer in Scotland at the moment, munching their way through some of the best habitat we have got in the country because we haven’t got a top-of-the-food chain predator. We could have lynx in Scotland. They would eat a few sheep but we could compensate the farmers. It would be marvellous, but public perception is stopping it. As soon as the reintroduction of predators is talked about, people get the idea that lynxes will be eating children in shopping precincts, which is utterly ridiculous.”

*Springwatch returns to BBC2 on Monday.


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