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Chris Packham calls for urgent action to help nature at Dundreggan talk


By John Davidson

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Chris Packham speaks to the crowd at the Dundreggan Rewilding Centre on Saturday alongside Megan McCubbin. Picture: Paul Campbell/Trees For Life
Chris Packham speaks to the crowd at the Dundreggan Rewilding Centre on Saturday alongside Megan McCubbin. Picture: Paul Campbell/Trees For Life

Nature campaigner and TV broadcaster Chris Packham told an audience at Dundreggan Rewilding Centre on Saturday that the work of the world-first venue should lead the way for further transformation across the country.

Speaking alongside his step-daughter and co-presenter Megan McCubbin, he said that time was running out and urged people to demand a faster pace of change to improve biodiversity.

The pair, who are regular hosts of the popular Springwatch series on BBC TV, are launching a new two-week programme on YouTube next week called 8 Out of 10 Bats, with the first week coming live from the Dundreggan centre near Invermoriston.

Miss McCubbin told the Inverness Courier after the event: “Dundreggan is a great example of a really big initiative and long-term thinking about putting back fragments of this once-epic Caledonian Forest and starting to regenerate this landscape again, and encouraging that biodiversity back and celebrating it.

“So, we’re really excited to be here for week one of 8 Out of 10 Bats, looking at all the local wildlife – everything from the tiniest insects to the biggest birds of prey and the mammals that we can find.

“We’re going to explore, we’re going to have a bit of fun and talk about some issues that mean a lot to us at the same time.”

Mr Packham praised Trees For Life, the charity behind the rewilding centre - the first of its kind in the world - saying they are “not just standing up [for nature], they’ve got the spade out and they’ve got the trees in the ground.”

He arrived at the last minute for the presentation on Saturday, and said he was looking forward to having a good look around afterwards.

Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin outside the Dundreggan Rewilding Centre. Picture: Paul Campbell/Trees For Life
Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin outside the Dundreggan Rewilding Centre. Picture: Paul Campbell/Trees For Life

“It’s really exciting and it looks like a fabulous centre,” he said, “because it’s not just about doing it, you’ve got to bring people and show them. You’ve got to generate aspiration through that engagement and show people that what you are doing is positive so that they emulate it, and that’s what you get from a resource like this.”

During the presentation, the pair outlined the pressure on nature and biodiversity, showing some of the impacts of climate change and its effect on wildlife in the UK and across the globe.

Mr Packham said that we already have the skills and knowledge to solve many of the issues, including reducing flooding which has led to tragic deaths over the last week during Storm Babet.

He told the sold-out event: “We have the capacity to restore, reinstate and repair these habitats – the problem is we’re just not doing it broadly enough and rapidly enough.

“And that’s why I’m here to champion the work that’s being done at Dundreggan and this rewilding project. Rewilding is part of a portfolio of conservation techniques which will be implicitly important if we want to reach our targets.

“Places like this are not waiting for government agencies to do anything, here are people who have empowered themselves to say, do you know what, we’re just going to get on with it, we’re going to find the means to do what we can do because we know it works.

“That proactive practical conservation work plays dividends – and it’s not just about wildlife, it’s about people too. These natural communities can be healthier for human communities, providing greater sustainability.

“There’s been a lot of terrible flooding, people have lost their lives in Scotland over the last few days. If the uplands were still wet and hadn’t been drained, if they were covered in trees and bogs, that would have slowed up some of that water, and perhaps some of that flooding would have been a lot less than it was.

“We know that by re-wetting and restructuring those uplands it would be better for people – not just those people living and working in the uplands but for people living downstream. We’ve got these answers, our problem is that it’s not happening outside of the enthusiasm and ambition of projects like this one.”

Mr Packham said that on his way north driving through Glen Coe, he was struck by how empty the landscape was.

He added: “We’ve got to stand up for positive change. We’re running out of time, that’s the bottom line.

“Dundreggan’s role is to lead the way, to show they are at the vanguard of restoring nature. It’s a perfect place where we can bring politicians and say, look, this works. Now go and fix Glen Coe, because it’s a bloody wilderness.”


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