BY NIGEL BEAN & PAUL READ
Back in March Chris Packham used his privileged status as a BBC presenter to promote his girlfriend’s charity and zoo, the Wildheart Trust, across social media. Nepotistic but hardly illegal, you’d think? There was Packham, smearing the circuses and asking the public to give up their hard-earned money via crowdfunders for these half dozen ‘rescued’ tigers:
Country Squire Magazine covered the story back in the Spring.
So, what about those rescued tigers? There were six tigers claimed to be rescued at the zoo on the Isle of Wight. One died in December 2019, it was claimed from injuries sustained while in the circus a full five years previously. We will come to this one later as it’s the most infamous. Still, the five-year time span should already set off alarm bells on your bullshit monitor.
A couple of the headlines from the Daily Mirror at the time read:
“Rescued from circus hell”
“Five tigers saved from circus hell thanks to Chris Packham and Mirror readers”
More links to articles promoting the Tiger rescues:
We investigated further. We were shocked to discover that the tigers were not actually rescued. There was no Spanish police operation swooping at dawn alongside animal rescue services. These tigers were donated. In an agreement with a rehoming centre they were voluntarily handed over into their care for nothing. They were well-loved family pets as well as performing animals and could be found sometimes in the homes of the circus folk who cared so well for them.
We contacted an animal organisation in Germany – where other tigers were “rescued from” – to convey our suspicions, not least because we know they take great pride in the way they train both lions and tigers. They have scientific studies to back up their excellent welfare standards. What came back again was more bad news for the Wildheart Trust ‘rescues’.
From court notes:
“None of the numerous veterinarians who had regularly inspected the circus had previously identified the deficiencies found on the day of the removal”
“Witnesses – all veterinarians – testified that the cats of prey showed quite normal behaviour, formed a “homogeneous group”, and even had a pleasingly large space. Only the tail wound of the lioness in question and her delay in healing were occasionally mentioned. Nevertheless, no veterinarian saw reason to order a visit to the vet”
So we contacted the Wildheart Trust directly with our worries that there had been a fraud perpetrated by officials from their charity and this is what they had to say:
The Wildheart Trust is opposed to the use of wild animals in circuses and we believe there is a mountain of evidence that the rearing, training and husbandry of such animals hugely compromises their welfare. Having reviewed the video footage along with testimonials from the rescue organisation involved in the rescue, we feel the view that these animals endure horrific conditions throughout the course of their lives is wholly justified.
Interesting to note in the Wildheart Trust’s misdirecting response that they admit to being ideologically opposed to the use of wild animals in circuses but fail to address the lie that they were ‘rescued’, merely doubling down on it by claiming that the ‘rescue’ organisation involved was executing a rescue. If someone is giving away a horse and you want it, you cannot run a crowdfunder to generate piles of cash for yourself claiming that you are ‘rescuing’ the horse – that is fraud.
Now further shocking evidence has come to light that brings the UK police into proceedings as Packham raised a lot of cash for the Wildheart Trust (see graph of their income below):
We recently obtained a conversation between a circus worker and the original owners of the tigers at the circus. It turns out animal rights nutters (the same common and garden class warrior variety as Packham) had pressed the weak Spanish authorities into stopping circuses using land for their animals so in the end they had nowhere to house them so were forced to DONATE them to a rehoming centre.
The circus owner’s wife then complained that her husband revisited the rehoming centre to find the tigers had been looked after but were thinner.
The bombshell landed when she commented “We’ve heard the Isle of Wight (referring to Wildheart Trust, which is based in the Isle of Wight)…. they were saying that they’d been badly treated in the circus, but as you know, that isn’t true.”
So we examined Spanish news sites and translated the stories about the donation of the tigers. The story as related by the circus owner’s wife turned out to be the truth and was backed up by a lawyer handling the transfer:
“Raquel López, DeAnimals lawyer, explains that “from the circus they contacted me to help them find a good home for their animals, since they did not want them to end up euthanized, in another circus or in a bad place. I know that the circus family had taken very good care of the animals, and that they understood that it is time to take a step forward and for the animals to have a better life in a sanctuary. After solving legal procedures, to formally donate the animals to a sanctuary.”
So what on earth is Packham’s position now? Note that on the Charity Commission website the Wildheart Trust of which Packham is a trustee alongside his girlfriend has staff costs of a quarter of a million quid or thereabouts compared to vet costs of about twenty grand. Presumably much of the crowdfunded cash has already been spent? The Wildheart Trust has now to come up with the truth. Was the Mirror journalist in on it? Did the Mirror journalist get a backhander?
Packham will likely claim that he was conned by Spanish animal rights extremists who claimed the tigers were rescued. But that is not what we hear from them in Spain. The Wildheart Trust will have to return donated cash to those duped by the crowdfunder. Or will Packham apologise 1) to the public and 2) to BBC bosses for defrauding members of the public in what is nothing short of a scam? How then with new BBC Director General Tim Davie react? Is Davie all blather?
The police need to investigate these irregularities built on false premises which raised many thousands of pounds from the public. Packham is supposed to be from the “Gold Standard” BBC yet all the data here points to a scam. If that is not the case then let’s see the results of a thorough police investigation. We are here to assist with a (growing) file of evidence.
The BBC should once again look at Packham’s role with the BBC. It is one thing using public money to build Packham up. It is quite different when a presenter uses his privileged position to get involved in promoting fake stories which are designed to loosen the purse strings of the British public – especially when his girlfriend is the beneficiary. It’s not as if the BBC rules have not already been broken by Packham – just this month indeed.
We have already found some angry donors. Were you duped into donating? Please get in touch using the contact form on this website if you were a victim or contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. The Charity Commission also ought to know – naturally, we have forewarned them.