Wildlife Author and Biosciences Graduate Caleb Compton talks about his inspirations behind writing and why he is a big fan of Reptiles.
In this weeks edition of Under The spotlight we talk with author and biosciences graduate Caleb Compton. Specialising in animal biology in his final year, Caleb completed his degree in 2016 from the University of Exeter not too far from his home town of Redruth Cornwall. His passion for animals and conservation started like many others, watching nature documentaries by the great Sir David Attenborough. In 2013 Caleb created a Twitter account @Strangeanimals which brings obscure and bizarre creatures into the spotlight and is now one of the most popular animals accounts on twitter.
Lets see what Caleb had to say when he went under the spotlight...🔦
Ever since I was a child, I’ve been fascinated by the natural world. Growing up, I would watch nature documentaries and read books on animals, and I was astounded by how diverse the animal kingdom was. Throughout school, my favourite subject was science and I found biology to be a particular passion of mine. I then found myself studying biosciences at university and even researching animal facts in my spare time, which I turned into the Twitter account @StrangeAnimaIs.
I was inspired by other ‘themed’ Twitter accounts that had published books as a result of their success on social media such as @SoVeryBritish and @CrapTaxidermy. I’ve always enjoyed writing and have produced several nature articles for trivia websites in the past, and I thought it would be good to see if I could write a book on the subject. It also helped that I had more time on my hands due to recently graduating from university, and I was looking for a big project to keep me busy after my studies.
I think this is a great question. For me personally, I would like to see a big reduction in global meat consumption. The meat and dairy industry is the main driver of climate change and the fact that we are so reliant on this practice is frustrating to say the least. Obviously switching everyone to a plant-based diet is not a realistic option at present, and we need to change many habits as well as our diets, but if everyone cut down on their meat consumption, we would be in a much better place in terms of sustainability.
I think the most important thing is to show people the amazing creatures we risk losing if we continue to disregard the natural world and value money over biodiversity. What I try to do with my Twitter account is show people how amazing and diverse animals are, and then explain some threats they face. I think it’s important to show something positive first, and then explain how vulnerable a certain species is and what we can do to help.
I’m a big fan of reptiles, and in 2015 I spent 2 months volunteering at an iguana sanctuary in Honduras. I was caring for the critically endangered Utila iguana, which isn’t in my book, but a couple of other iguana species are featured. I’ve also seen proboscis monkeys in Borneo, which have a huge nose and weird vocal call to attract mates.
My all-time favourite animal is the elephant, which might not seem that strange to most people, considering the plethora of animals in my book, but I think the elephant is one of the more bizarre routes that evolution has taken. They are some of the largest mammals to ever roam the earth, and use their extremely long nose to pick up objects, produce sound and even snorkel! They are also such intelligent and social creatures, and I had the pleasure of spending two weeks observing them in the wild in Cambodia in 2016.
My conservation role model is Sir David Attenborough. His documentaries sparked my passion for nature and conservation, and taught me how important this issue is. I think it’s incredible that even at the age of 93 he continues to fight for our planet and raise awareness about climate change and the impacts of human activities on wildlife. When I first received copies of my book, I mailed one to David Attenborough and thanked him for inspiring me to write it. I wasn’t expecting a reply but after a couple of days, I received a handwritten letter from him saying thanks for the book! I will cherish that letter forever.
The most important thing with writing a book is to persevere and be patient. It does take a long time to write and produce a book, but the results are worth the hard work. I think it’s also good to have a very clear idea of what you’re going to write, so you know what direction it’s going.
I started writing my next book over the summer, which is going to focus on lesser-known extinct animals. This book is based on my Twitter account @Extinct_AnimaIs and will feature a range of obscure species (not just dinosaurs) that once roamed the earth. There are so many bizarre creatures, it’s hard to believe that some of them actually existed! After doing some research into extinct species for my Twitter account, I have become fascinated by them and I would love to share this with people. I think this is a perfect time to get another book out there, after the success of A Book of Rather Strange Animals.
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