Dr. Amir Khan is a GP, well-known for his regular appearances on Lorraine and Good Morning Britain. As a lifelong lover of wildlife, he is also ambassador for the Wildlife Trusts and Butterfly Conservation. He is passionate about connection with the natural world as a mutually beneficial practice which can not only improve our mental and physical health, but is also necessary to ensure the conservation and biodiversity of local areas.
From April this year, Dr. Khan is fronting Butterfly Conservation’s Nurture for Nature campaign which aims to get people involved with the wildlife in their gardens and local wild spaces. We recently chatted with him about the campaign as well as his love of the natural world.
Your incredibly popular Instagram and Twitter accounts are full of beautiful images and descriptions of your local wildlife encounters. Have wildlife and conservation always been passions of yours?
I have been a lover of wildlife from an early age, my dad and I used to watch nature documentaries together. He wasn’t well enough to get out of the house so I would tell him about what I had seen in the woods or local park. As I got older, I learned about wildlife gardening and the importance of nature on our health. I am passionate about everyone, from all walks of life, having access to nature and that means conserving it. It has such important wellbeing effects that everyone should get to experience. I experienced the benefits of nature on my mental health during the pandemic, when I would come home from the surgery after visiting my patients in nursing homes; nature helped me during these difficult times.
As an ambassador for Butterfly Conservation you are also going to be fronting their new Nurture for Nature campaign. Can you tell us a bit more about this and what it hopes to achieve?
Butterflies and insects are vital pollinators and we need them in our lives to keep us alive! By understanding that by helping nature we are actually helping ourselves, I am hoping people will see the wider benefit of doing simple things that can encourage some of these wonderful creatures to visit them. We have to remember that, at this time of year, many insects are emerging from a long winter and need areas where they can feed to get them going for the spring and summer months. They will then get the mental and physical benefits that being close to nature provides and our insects get more areas to feed, drink and rest.
Hopefully lots more people will be inspired to get into their gardens this year as a result of the campaign. Do you have plans for your own garden this year?
I am really excited about my garden this year. After what feels like a very long winter, I want my garden to feel like a haven for both myself and the wildlife that visit or live there. I am making sure every corner has something in it to entice wildlife. There is nothing better than a summer’s day in the garden, simply watching the insects going about their business whilst you potter about. And knowing they are feeding off the plants and flowers you planted is a lovely feeling.
We’ve also heard that you’re hoping to get into moth trapping! What is it about moths that interests you?
I absolutely love moths! I think they are the most underrated insects in our gardens. They are vital pollinators but have a bit of a bad reputation, probably down to the fact that many of them are nocturnal so we are just not as familiar with them. I want to show people that moths are just as amazing as butterflies and just as beautiful. By doing some moth trapping this summer I am hoping to catch and showcase some of the gorgeous moths that live right under our noses!
It’s fascinating to read about the link between lifestyle choices and their impacts on mental and physical health. How do you feel that a connection with wildlife and an appreciation for nature fit into this picture?
There is so much proven science behind the wellbeing effects of nature. When we are amongst natural spaces, listening to bird song or spending time immersed in nature, our bodies produce chemicals that make us feel content and happy – we produce less stress hormones which can help reduce blood pressure and heart rate, having an overall calming feeling on our minds and bodies. We need to embrace and encourage this as part of our every day lifestyles. This is why we need to conserve green spaces so that everyone can benefit from them.
Find out more about the Nurture for Nature campaign and sign up for your free gardening and wellness guide on the Butterfly Conservation website.