Fundraising Regulator Probes Wildheart & Chris Packham

BY NIGEL BEAN

Following on from our article about him last weekend, on Monday the 8th December the clearly rattled BBC TV wildlife presenter and balaclava wearer Chris Packham deigned to address his “trolls” on video and attempted to defend himself via social media, referencing the integrity of the group Wild Justice and the charity of which he is a trustee, The Wildheart Trust – a zoo on the Isle of Wight run by his current partner, the CEO of Wildheart, Charlotte Corney.

No doubt Packham knows all about trolls – his “phalanx” of supporters have been trolling and threatening Country Squire Magazine all week. Yoking a troll army is hardly a good look for a prominent BBC TV presenter. And no, we will not keep quiet about what the trolls’ intwepid hewo has been up to. Indeed, soon no doubt – one way or the other – the truth shall be aired in court.

In his Twitter video address above, despite engaging in fundraising activities for it, Packham apologises for referring to Wild Justice as a charity when the organisation has never been listed as a charity. That rarest of apologies is nonetheless insufficient for the significant harm that Packham has done to public perception; not only to the reputation of decent and law-abiding circus owners generally, but also to his own brand and especially that of his paymaster, the BBC.

Worse, in the course of his apology – scrutinised in detail by his BBC bosses, so we have been told – Packham repeated claims that the tigers housed by the Wildheart Trust had been rescued when it was widely reported throughout Spain that these tigers had been donated. (For your interest, the Oxford Dictionary definition of the verb donate is “to give money, food, clothes, etc to somebody/something, especially a charity”).

So we decided to investigate further.

What emerged left us speechless:

In 2016 the Spanish circus folk that owned some of what became Isle of Wight Zoo tigers went to Gijon in Asturias but were not allowed to work while they had their animals on the ground. So they donated their camels to a zoo and moved their tigers to a circus that were still permitted to use them. After the circus season had finished they went to bring the tigers back to their winter quarters but were refused permission by the local council. They then tried to take the tigers to Valencia over Christmas but were again refused permission. The Seprona (Spain’s Nature Protection Service) became involved and recommended a ‘holding centre’ until the circus folk could take their animals back. This is the same place shown in the BBC documentary Inside out and linked to in Packham’s tweet above.

By all accounts, from all the relevant witnesses at the time, the circus people handed the tigers over in excellent condition to the holding centre, however on a visit two months later the owner and his nephew became concerned when they could see the tigers had lost weight and conditioning, and seemed poorly. They realised this recommended holding centre were not coping looking after the tigers and, as always wanting what was best for their animals, they immediately looked around for a new home for them and found the sanctuary which Packham would use later to obtain the tigers for Isle of Wight Zoo (Wildheart Trust).

The sanctuary the circus folk found would only take the tigers on if they were to hand them over for good and, considering the constant hassle they were getting from animal rights nutters at the time, this course of action was agreed. Representatives from the sanctuary then turned up at the holding centre knowing full well it was just a holding centre and shot the video giving the viewer the impression it was their circus accommodation being filmed. It wasn’t. The holding centre openly admit as much. They knew full well why they were being asked to take on the tigers and where they had come from previously.

So for the record here are the same well-cared for tigers looking healthy in the circus’ travelling quarters in a clean environment forming a happy and homogenous group.  This is hugely different to what was portrayed in Packham’s video and the story aired by Inside Out on the BBC.

In Spain, the press correctly and unanimously reported the tigers as donated and lawyers went on record saying the circus tigers were ‘well cared for’. Yet over here in the UK the tigers were portrayed to the public – for purposes of raising donations – as ‘mistreated’, as ‘abused’ and as ‘rescued’.

So just another innocent mistake then by Packham and his “charities“?

No.

Meet Simi the smoking gun (pictured in the featured image for this article). Another tiger – this time belonging to a German circus – that also went the Wildheart route to Isle of Wight zoo.

Using Packham’s own words, “I will leave you to make up your own mind” as to whether deceit has been at play here…

The Background: SIMI

There was a police raid on a German circus in May 2013. On that day, from 6.35 a.m. onwards, sixty-six police officers secured the circus grounds and forbid any of the circus folk present from leaving their caravans.  Later in court, one of the policemen on the witness stand described this strategy as wanting to ‘freeze’ the situation. The aim of the operation was to confiscate the elephant cow ‘Gitana’ without incident. Preparations had been made beforehand and a court order had been obtained.

On the day of the search, Gitana was anaesthetised by a specialist veterinarian and transported away. Afterwards, the public prosecutor’s office and the veterinarian discussed the possibility of inspecting the other animals as well. As a result the defendant’s dog, two tigers – one called ‘Simi’ and the other ‘Julia’ – were taken away along with two lions ‘without a warrant’ and later sold ‘in an emergency’. It was noted at the time that one of the lions had an injured tail.

However, a year later, in August 2014, the three judges of the 7th Criminal Chamber of the Regional Court in Kiel judged that the German authorities had taken away the animals illegally from the Circus. This was reported at the time in Germany as (translated):

“a resounding slap in the face for the public prosecutor’s office”.

Game set and match to the circus then?

Well no, as previously stated, the tiger ‘Julia’ had already been sold off to the Woodside Wildlife Park in Lincolnshire for £250,000 and donations were already being collected under the false premise that ‘Julia’ along with another male tiger she got paired with called ‘Tango’ were both badly treated in a German circus. Only ‘Tango’ came from a French circus and had been removed on mere safety grounds alone. The Daily Mail did not even bother waiting for the court case in Germany to be heard before publishing this factually incorrect pile of tosh:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2596972/Tango-Esso-tiger-saved-death-British-wildlife-park-abused-German-circus.html

  • Tango appeared in a series of adverts for the fuel giant in the 1990s
  • He and his partner Julia then went to a circus where they were mistreated
  • They were rescued by Lincolnshire Wildlife Park which paid £250,000 to save them

So the circus family, even after winning their case, were told, to their utter amazement, “your animals are not coming back”. They did not know where they were. And they still had a final court appearance to attend and prepare for in relation to their lion’s damaged tail.

Charlotte Corney (on the left)

Now enter Chris Packham’s girlfriend Charlotte Corney from her Isle of Wight zoo – remembering the German circus family have already been cleared over Simi and the confiscation has already been ruled illegal. This is the sequence of events that followed:  

16th September 2015

Charlotte Corney, Director of the Isle of Wight zoo and girlfriend of BBC presenter Chris Packham, makes a move for Simi but has problems getting her through customs so contacts her local MP Andrew Turner for help.

Andrew Turner then raises the issue in Parliament at PMQ – “The Isle of Wight zoo is having difficulty importing a tiger. She was cruelly treated in a circus and has now been kept in isolation for nearly two years, despite Belgium being wholly free from rabies. Will my right hon. Friend assist in breaking through this bureaucratic logjam?”

Charlotte Corney incorrectly advised Andrew Turner ‘Simi’ was cruelly treated in the German circus although the circus owner had been cleared the previous year when the confiscation was ruled illegal:

https://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/13763924.isle-of-wight-mp-andrew-turner-raises-plight-of-tiger-simi-during-pmqs

14th January 2016

The German circus go back to court and are cleared of any wrongdoing in relation to the lion’s tail having already been cleared of cruelty to the tigers and all other animals under their care in 2014. Vets tell the court they inspected the animals routinely and never found a problem and the circus owner can expect “a six figure pay out for damages”.

https://www.ln-online.de/Lokales/Segeberg/Verfahren-eingestellt-Entschaedigung-fuer-Zirkusfamilie

“None of the numerous veterinarians who had regularly inspected the circus had previously identified the deficiencies found on the day of the removal”

“On the contrary: 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”

19th January, 2016

More false allegations of circus mistreatment from The Sun emerge featuring Packham’s girlfriend, Charlotte Corney.

“Simi the tiger finally safe in Britain two years after being rescued from cruel German circus”

4th February 2016

And still more false accusations by Charlotte Corney – this time on radio telling folk “Simi was subject to a rough ride over welfare and cruel training methods”. At 19:37 on this podcast:

https://www.vectisradio.com/tag/simi-the-tiger

What “rough ride over welfare and cruel training methods” is Corney talking about? How can Corney claim that? Why should anyone for one minute think that an animal’s welfare is better at a zoo in the Isle of Wight than at a German circus whose welfare standards were deemed impeccable by multiple vets and witnesses? Could this be anti-circus ideology weaponised to raise funds from gullible members of the British public, perhaps? Where’s the integrity in that?

12th December 2019

When Simi dies in December 2019 there is an announcement in the press. Unsurprisingly the BBC cover the story and get a quote from Corney’s Isle of Wight zoo. Despite German vets routinely inspecting her up to when she was seized six years previously and testifying in court – “that the cats of prey showed quite normal behaviour, formed a “homogeneous group”, and even had a pleasingly large space” – Corney’s zoo continues to propagate the lie that Simi has died from injuries sustained while in a circus.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-50761485

What are the chances that Simi could only have died in the UK from injuries sustained while in the German circus six years previously when vets had testified there had been no harm done to Simi at all while in the circus and that the tiger’s welfare standards had been exemplary?

“Isle of Wight rescued tiger, Simi, dies of circus injuries” is both duplicitous and propagandist.

Is it not the truth that a blinkered animal rights ideologue – Corney – pushed this narrative simply to smear circuses to which she is ideologically opposed? Also to collect donations from bleeding heart, gullible, animal-loving Brits who, because of his BBC status, believe her boyfriend Packham’s every word? Is this not abuse of human beings who are ready to believe that rescuing tigers from circuses and transporting them back to their ‘forever home’ (words used by Packham while fundraising) into their zoo is the right thing to be donating towards?  

Of course the claim that all circuses are cruel is patently false. If Corney’s Zoo or the journalists pushing her and Packham’s story had consulted with a real expert on wild animals in circuses –  someone like Professor Ted Friend – they would not be facing the music as they do now.

Professor Friend studied circus animals for over twenty years and has nine peer reviewed studies on their welfare – including studies on tigers – under his belt and in a recent webchat he explained how he prefers circuses to zoos when it comes to animal welfare. How does that research fit in with Packham and Corney’s ‘forever home’? Where was that side of the story mentioned in the crowd funders associated with the tigers? How does that fundraising strategy conform in any way with Charity Commission fundraising legislation, especially related to crowdfunding and the truth?

Not only do Packham and Corney not have the backing of academics that studied wild animals in circuses, the UK Government failed to pay any attention to these experts when they pushed through with their wild animal circus ban in 2020, a ban which – with his media profile boosted by, and built on the back of, the BBC – Packham pushed and celebrated.

Worse still, there is a shameful and previously untold human story here:

Over the six years that Packham and Corney were smearing circuses, the owners involved, who absolutely adored their animals, were not informed as to what had happened to their beloved animals. The German circus family only found out within the last month about what happened to their tigers. They had no idea where they had gone. They had no idea the issue had been raised in Westminster in parliament or even that one of their tigers was used in a campaign to raise pot loads of money, let alone played a part in obtaining a UK legislative ban on the use of wild animals in circuses. They were flabbergasted when told and became very agitated indeed.  

Packham and his girlfriend did not bother once validating the stories they were pushing out via the UK press, despite representing a charity (and misrepresenting a company as a charity). What typical animal rights nuts – not giving a damn about humans. We obligingly passed all the press falsehoods to the German circus family and the last we heard from them they were busily consulting with their lawyers – disgusted that, in spite of their innocence declared by prosecutors in a German court, there were such high profile individuals in England defaming them.

“Ah but where is the evidence?” we hear Packham’s trolls and zealots crying.

We have reams of it. Witness testimony, court documents, journalist notes and records even from antis themselves. We have started collecting complaints from those who were hoodwinked into making donations and are asking those who were involved to now go ahead and contact the police. Some of the people who we have spoken to who donated are in their nineties….. now let that sink in.

As for the evidence we are holding some back, which we have furnished the authorities with. For starters just look at the shocking lies that are publicly accessible – in articles, tweets and the spiels of crowdfunders – that were told to raise funds from gullible British readers. There are dozens of lies which were told that the public can check for themselves:

ON SIMI:

“Simi the tiger finally safe in Britain two years after being rescued from cruel German circus”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-50761485

‘Dies of circus injuries’

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-england-hampshire-35348445

‘Seized on welfare grounds’

https://www.countypress.co.uk/news/18097601.isle-wight-zoo-mourns-former-circus-tiger-simi—-famed-plight-raised-house-commons

“It is with great sadness we must report our beautiful tigress Simi passed away last week after a short illness related to injuries sustained in her previous life as a circus performer”

“It is with great sadness that we must report that our beautiful tigress Simi passed away last week after a short illness related to injuries sustained in her previous life as a Circus performer”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-hampshire-41471654

“A tiger, whose plight was raised at Prime Ministers Questions when she was rescued from a travelling circus”

https://www.islandecho.co.uk/isle-wight-zoos-simi-recovers-well-keyhole-surgery

“Dan Forster of The Mobile Vet was approached to spay Simi, who was rescued from a travelling circus in Germany 4 years ago”

https://isleofwightzoo.com/animals/tigers

“Simi passed away after a short illness related to injuries sustained in her previous life as a Circus performer”

https://www.newsbreak.com/news/1473024250644/isle-of-wight-rescued-tiger-simi-dies-of-circus-injuries

“A tiger rescued by Isle of Wight Zoo has died from injuries suffered during her time in a circus”

https://www.islandecho.co.uk/isle-of-wight-zoos-simi-passes-away-after-short-illness

“Simi died last week as a result of a short illness, which the zoo says was related to her previous life as a circus performer in Germany”

https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/606150/Cameron-bitten-pledge-help-German-big-cat-allowing-circus-animal-cruelty

“Cameron bitten by pledge to help German big cat while allowing circus animal cruelty here”

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/heartsfortigers

“Whether they have been abandoned by private owners (who no longer want them after they outgrow the cute and cuddly phase) or have been subjected to cruelty or bad welfare in circuses”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-34269175

“She said the eight-year-old tiger was seized on welfare grounds in Germany two years ago and is being held in isolation at a Belgian animal welfare centre”

“Simi, the tiger has been in inadequate, temporary housing for far too long after being badly abused”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-35134311

“She was firstly cruelly treated by a circus and has now been kept in isolation for two years, despite Belgium being wholly free of rabies.”

“Simi rescued from a German circus”

“Simi is most definitely my favourite! This beautiful tiger was rescued from a European circus only 12 weeks before I met her.  When she arrived she was very thin and had not been treated well.  In her short time at the zoo she had started to settle and is much happier – it is believed Simi has never seen grass before her arrival at the zoo. She is a little wobbly on her back legs but it doesn’t appear to be causing her any pain.  It is possible that the unsteady ness may be as a result of muscle wastage from her time in restricted enclosures at the circus”

ON TANGO & JULIA:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2596972/Tango-Esso-tiger-saved-death-British-wildlife-park-abused-German-circus.html

“Mistreated: Eighteen-year-old Tango had been earmarked for destruction in Belgium along with his partner Julia after the two tigers were seized from a German circus last year”

https://www.gallowaygazette.co.uk/lifestyle/britains-oldest-tiger-star-esso-tv-ads-dies-aged-22-868817

“After the adverts ended in the 1990s Tango was sold to a German circus which mistreated him. He and his partner Julia, eight, were due to be put down in Belgium until the wildlife park raised £250,000 and brought them to the UK in 2014”

https://www.thedodo.com/esso-tiger-tango-death-2003279295.html

“Sadly, Tango’s life only became more difficult before it got better. He was shuffled into a German circus, where he and his partner, Julia, were both allegedly mistreated. Belgian and German authorities eventually intervened, rescuing Tango and Julia, along with two lions from the circus in 2014.”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/wildlife/10744896/Esso-tiger-saved-from-death-by-wildlife-park.html

“Eighteen-year-old Tango had been earmarked for destruction in Belgium along with his partner Julia after the two tigers were seized from a German circus last year where they were mistreated.”

https://www.itv.com/news/2016-09-12/last-esso-advert-tiger-tango-dies-in-uk-aged-22

“Only two years ago, Tango was rescued from a German circus that had been mistreating him as it toured Europe…..Julia, an eight-year-old mate, was brought back with Tango in 2014. She remains at the park”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lincolnshire-37332183

“Tango worked in a German circus with his partner Julia until they were seized by Belgian and German authorities in late 2013, after reports they were being mistreated”

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/famous-esso-advert-tiger-tango-8815368

“After the adverts ended in the 1990s Tango was sold to a German circus which mistreated him. He and his partner Julia, eight, were due to be put down in Belgium until the wildlife park raised £250,000 and brought them to the UK in 2014.”

“Tango and Julia were moved to a circus in Germany where they are believed to have been mistreated”

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/esso-advert-tiger-tango-dies-aged-22-a3342586.html

“After starring in the ads, he appeared in a German circus but had to be rescued over claims of mistreatment. He and his partner Julia were moved into Lincolnshire’s Woodside Wildlife Park back in 2014 after a £250,000 rescue operation”

“Officials learned he had been abused and took him into care with rescued tigress Julia, eight.”

“The park rescued Tango from death in 2014 after a six-month campaign raised £250,000 from the public to prevent the animal and his female tiger partner, Julia, being destroyed by the Belgian authorities. The two tigers had been seized from a circus in Germany where they were said to have been mistreated”

“I can only guess and wonder what has gone on in his previous life but it wasn’t fabulous,” adds Neil Mumby. The two felines were gravely neglected in the German circus for many years, until the Belgian and German authorities intervened to save them in 2014, reports the BBC”

http://home.bt.com/news/uk-news/esso-tiger-saved-by-wildlife-park-11363890403247

“Tango starred in TV ads for petrol giant Esso, whose slogan was “Put a tiger in your tank”, before going to the circus in Germany, where he was mistreated along with Julia”

http://zoonewsdigest.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-esso-tiger-saved-from-death.html

“Eighteen-year-old Tango had been earmarked for destruction in Belgium along with his partner Julia after the two tigers were seized from a German circus last year where they were mistreated”

https://www.southyorkshiretimes.co.uk/news/britains-oldest-tiger-star-esso-tv-ads-dies-aged-22-58827

“The park rescued Tango from death in 2014 after a six-month campaign raised £250,000 from the public to prevent the animal and his female tiger partner, Julia, being destroyed by the Belgian authorities. The two tigers had been seized from a circus in Germany where they were said to have been mistreated”

What a load of lies!!!!!!!!!! What a lot of money raised!!!!!!!!

IN CONCLUSION

Chris Packham and his partner Charlotte Corney have clearly not been truthful with the British public. Money has been raised on the back of their truth-bending and they now need to be held to account.

Oddly enough The Fundraising Regulator wrote to us on the very day that Chris Packham went public on Twitter calling us trolls. The good news is that the regulator have now begun an official investigation into the Wildheart Trust. We also urge the police to take this case very seriously indeed. Here is a bigot clearly using a publicly-funded perch to promulgate deceit which the donating public in their innocence have fallen for.

In the meantime, we recommend that the British Public be very wary indeed of whatever Chris Packham says. Let alone think of donating any money to the organisations he belongs to and fundraises for.

We demand, as licence fee payers, that Packham is immediately suspended from his BBC contracts. Until the air is cleared, Packham cannot be trusted to be maintaining the Gold Standard that Tim Davie’s BBC supposedly aspires to. What is the difference between what seems to have gone on here and the alleged deceitfulness of BBC journalist Martin Bashir? When can it be right for the BBC to be used as the power behind deceitful fundraising for an ideological cause that has been hijacked by animal rights extremists and which most of the public don’t give a damn about? Why did BBC Inside Out collude with the rescue centre in question? Was there influence exerted by Chris Packham?

We shall update as and when this story progresses. In the meantime we have consulted our lawyers, expecting a successful and interesting skirmish ahead. We are right and we are very confident indeed that justice shall prevail.

If You have further information that will assist in any of these matters, please use the contact form here or, if the information is relating to a crime, please go directly to the relevant authorities via the appropriate channels. Thankyou.