As a TV presenter – most recently of Winterwatch, which included a four-day stint at RSPB Arne in the Purbecks – photographer, conservationist and designer, the different arms of Chris Packham’s career are all united by his love of nature, and his desire to protect it.

It is something instilled in him at an early age when, growing up in Southampton, he discovered a fascination for insects, reptiles, birds of prey, foxes, badgers and squirrels.

Packham went onto to study in the Zoology department at Southampton University, where he also embraced punk rock and developed a determination never to take ‘no’ for an answer.

Something which has proved useful in his work as a tireless campaigner for animal rights.

His love of wildlife is also credited for his childhood understanding of death something he talks about in Fingers in the Sparkle Jar, his critically-acclaimed memoir which captures his view of the 60s and 70s, including the music, the clothes, the cars and the freedom he enjoyed.

“I wanted to write a book about something that was relatively profound, I suppose,” he explains.

“So the memoir is a vehicle; it’s my life from six to 16 years [of age], and explores how we develop an appreciation for life – both animal life and life generally.

“It’s also about how we grapple for an understanding of death. From a very young age, I was obsessed with wildlife and I loved living things, but at the same time, I was, like all little kids, having to come to terms with why things died and what happened when they did.”

In terms of the writing process being cathartic, Packham – whose sister is fashion designer Jenny Packham – isn’t sold.

“I haven’t reached a point where I’ve thought, ‘Well that’s done me the world of good’, you know? It’s a very honest and frank memoir; I can only really tell the truth.”

Packham, who now lives in the New Forest with his wife Charlotte Corney, the owner of Isle of Wight zoo, is certainly not one to mince his words. He has talked in the past about being bullied as the ‘weird kid’ at school and spoken out about his struggle with depression and how he twice contemplated suicide.

He has also courted controversy by labelling those involved in hunting the ‘nasty brigade’, talking about how overgrazing in the New Forest is destroying woodland and threatening certain species and sparking a row with shooting supporter Sir Ian Botham over whether grouse shooting should be banned.

Packham said the shoots meant the ‘removal of all predators on the moors’, adding: “Now when it comes to foxes and stoats and crows that’s legal, but unfortunately what we see ongoing with lots of new evidence this year is the removal of our birds of prey which is criminal and illegal activity.”

Countryside Alliance has also previously tried – and failed – to have him sacked from the BBC after he criticised conservation groups for ‘sitting on the fence’ over fox hunting, badger culling and the plight of hen harriers in his BBC Wildlife magazine column.

Packham’s latest venture is the design of a range of free to download T-shirt motifs including ‘Killing Wildlife for Fun is a Dying Business’ and ‘Safer in Outer Space’, which relates to the declining tiger population.

“I doubt whether there is a single safe enclave on earth for the tiger,” he explains.

“Maybe we should spend all that vast sum of charitable cash to send the last few to the moon”.

He is, however, confident that is it only ‘a matter of time’ before the mistreatment of animals comes to an end – and he won’t stop until it does.

“I feel positive and optimistic at the moment, as I feel we’re making progress more rapidly. I want to make a small difference before I die, we can’t rest until everything is sorted.”

An Audience with Chris Packham is at the Tivoli Theatre in Wimborne tomorrow at 7.30pm. Tickets are available from or 01202 885566.