Chris Packham’s private life from famous sister to relationship with zoo owner

Chris Packham, known for his work on shows like the BBC’s Springwatch and Autumnwatch, is one of the nation’s most famous naturalists.

Having spent decades campaigning for wildlife conservation in Britain, this week sees the presenter celebrate a milestone birthday, turning 60.

A lover of the Great Outdoors from an early age, Chris’ career – and his firm views on subjects like hunting and extinction – have sometimes been met by controversy.

To mark his 60th birthday, Daily Star has taken a look at Chris’ personal life, exploring everything from his close bond with his famous sister, to his rise to fame.

Happy birthday Chris!

Famous sister

Chris and his sister Jenny Packham are equally famous but are known to have talents in two very different fields.

A fashion designer, Jenny, 56, has dressed the likes of Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie, and Kate Middleton is one of her biggest fans.

The siblings grew up together in their home in Southampton, where Chris’ love for animals was soon passed on to his little sister.

“Chris is one of those people you just end up saying 'yes' to because he’s so charismatic,” she told the Daily Mail last year.

“He’d be doing photography and I’d end up with a snake around my neck — but he’d have a way of making you feel safe.”

The designer, who established her namesake brand in 1988, also admitted Chris never shied away from critiquing her collections, giving an honest opinion on each new range.

“Every collection I’ve ever done I get quite a critique,” she added.

“He’ll say: 'That one was good, that one was rubbish.' But I don’t mind. In fact, I love the honesty.”

Rise to fame

After a childhood spent learning all he could about the Great Outdoors, Chris went to the University of Southampton to study Zoology, before training to become a wildlife cameraman.

In the early 80s, he landed a job working as a camera assistant for a wildlife filmmaker, before getting snapped up by the BBC to work on their The Living Plant production.

Fame arrived when he started hosting the BBC1 children's programme The Really Wild Show, making him a household name for nature-loving families up and down the country.

“My ever-growing passion for wildlife has shaped my career,” he once told the BBC.

“One of my most successful ventures was presenting the Children's BBC Wildlife programme, The Really Wild Show. It was so good that it won a BAFTA.

“My more recent BBC programmes include X-Creatures and Watch Out. This investigated mythological creatures such as the Yeti and British wildlife.”

In 2009 he became the co-presenter of BBC Two’s Springwatch, and the rest is history.

Meniere's disease

Chris has been affected by Meniere’s disease since his 30s, a condition that affects the ear, damaging hearing and potentially causing tinnitus.

The condition can be triggered by alcohol or foods like crisps – meaning Chris is forced to stay away from both.

Years after he suffered a burst eardrum, Chris started feeling as though he was losing his hearing in his right ear, showing the first signs of Meniere’s disease.

Opening up about the ailment in an interview with the Express in 2014, he said: "I've not eaten a packet of crisps in years and I have to be very careful with alcohol too because it can leave me dehydrated which is one of my main triggers for attacks.

"They can strike out of nowhere. There have been times when I have slumped to the ground without even having time to put my arm out to stop myself."

The nature photographer has been open about his experience of the disease in a bid to raise awareness of hearing difficulties in impoverished countries, supporting a charity campaign by the organisation Sound Seekers.

Relationship with zoo owner

For the past decade, Chris has been in a relationship with the owner of the Isle of Wight Zoo, with the couple sharing the same passion for wildlife.

Chris and his partner Charlotte Corney live separately, having first got to know one another when the TV star paid her zoo a visit on the British island.

“Chris and I met professionally when he visited the zoo that I run on the Isle of Wight,” she told Radio Times.

“He tells me now that he knew that day that I was the one. I had no idea of this, and at the time I was with my ex-partner anyway.

“Then in 2007 Chris did a voiceover on a programme that was filmed at the zoo. He made a huge effort to come to the launch of the film so that he could meet me again.”

Charlotte explained Chris’ Asperger syndrome – which he was diagnosed with in 2005- meant he struggled to flirt, so she wasn’t initially aware he was interested in her romantically.

She said: "His Asperger’s means he can’t flirt, so there were none of the usual signs to pick up on."

“A few days later, we were meant to go to dinner, but instead we just talked the whole night, and we connected on every level. I knew that my whole world was in that person,” she added.

TV star stepdaughter

Chris’ step-daughter, Megan McCubbin, has followed in her step-dad’s footsteps in the world of television, even starring alongside him on Springwatch.

Though Chris and Megan’s mother separated when she was 12, they continue to share a close bond, as he imparted his love of animals and conservation from an early age.

"I met Chris when I was two years old and, since that point, I've been on TV sets with him and we have travelled a lot around the world. My first memory of nature is having the animals Chris was rehabilitating in our downstairs toilet," Megan told County Living.

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Megan remembered Chris helping her to care for a barn owl named Marmite, eventually encouraging her to teach the bird how to fly.

Combining their passions, the pair brought out a book together last year, titled Back To Nature: How to Love Life and Save it.

“Essentially it’s a handbook with practical solutions for people to help bring wildlife back to a sustainable level and invite it into their outdoor spaces," Megan added to the publication.

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