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Campus Celebrity: Peter Cooper

Our Campus Celebrity this week has a lot on his plate! Get to know Pete Cooper and be amazed by his busy life!

1. Tell us why you chose to study at Penryn Campus

Quite simply it was the best possible university for me in every way – from the course right to the little things such as the Cornish sea air and the way the campus blends so beautifully into the local countryside. I initially created a ‘difficult’ choice between coming to here and Leeds, but that was more from some self-created norm that I needed the experience of living in a city. But as a lifelong zoologist, the opportunities and locations available to one like myself down here was a no-brainer.

2. What’s you involvement in Life Magazine?

I’ve been the editor in chief of Life magazine since November of my first year, and am basically responsible for checking everything’s going to plan – compiling article pitches, planning the content for each new issue, representing the magazine at events and the like. It often gets hectic and pretty stressful the nearer it goes to print, especially as they’ll often be problems such as one missing image two days before we send it to printers,that can be a real pain in the arse to resolve last minute. But the satisfaction of seeing the finished product, and the positive response from both students and academics, makes it all completely worth it.

3. Tell us about your upcoming expedition

In the Summer of 2016 me and a team of seven other students from both Exeter and Falmouth, will be heading to the Cat Tien region of Vietnam, working with a local conservation organisation conduct surveys for pangolins and carnivores such as wild cats, civets and otters, all mammals with currently little knowledge available on their distribution or ecology. Having read this you may be thinking ‘sounds nice, but I’ve no idea what a pangolin is for starters’. That’s something we’re well aware of, and is why we will also be filming a documentary there to show as many people what these wonderful animals are (they’re scaly mammals that look like the result of a night of passion between an anteater and an amorous pinecone), and the terrible threats they’re facing – pangolin meat and scales are frequently consumed illegally by South-East Asian upper/middle classes, and they are more heavily trafficked than either rhinos or elephants. But if no one knows what they are, where’s the impetus to save them? That’s something we’re trying our best to remedy in as much capacity as possible.

4. What’s your primary aim for the future?

My primary aim? Well it depends how far in the future you’re talking, but the ultimate goal would be to run a wildlife conservation charity fully engaged with rewilding our natural landscape, and fully engaged with bringing nature right into people’s lives, with wildlife centres, high street education centres/cafes, and the like. Might sound a bit barmy and over-ambitious, but why not? We’re gonna need something big to sort out the mess we’re making of nature at the moment.

5. Where’s your favourite place in Falmouth?

It’s cliché, but I guess it would just have to be Beerwolf for the way the place’s ambience just lends itself so well to different moments. During the day I’ll often come and just plough on with my work here, coffee by my side, whereas in the evening it’s got that merry, hobbit-like atmosphere of an ale-scented haze that you just don’t want to leave. On top of that, the natural history section in the bookshop is the absolute badger, and I’ve picked up some great reads there.

6. If you were an animal what would you be? Why?

I guess it would be a fox – very adaptable, nomadic lifestyle, and a nice varied diet to boot. Would probably have to be an urban fox though, the countryside would be full of far too many Boggis, Bunce and Beans who’d want to shoot me for eating their chickens. I’m pretty ginger, so I guess I’m halfway there.

7. If you had a million pounds what would be the first 3 things you bought?

Several acres of woodland that I would manage for wildlife conservation, a lodge in South Africa and… hmm, how about an otter?

8. Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

Ideally in that pipe dream, but more realistically just having seen plenty of the world’s wildlife, and spreading the wonder of wildlife to many others through books and television programmes. It’s brilliant doing work that directly contributes to conservation yourself and I intend to, but I also feel it’s ultimately pointless if you don’t encourage others to do the same.

9. What’s your life motto?

Hadn’t really thought about that (the question, that’s not my motto). I rather like a quote of my Gerald Durrell’s, one of the greatest naturalists to have lived and my role model. “Anyone who has got any pleasure at all from living should try to put something back. Life is like a superlative meal and the world is the maître d’hôtel. What I am doing is the equivalent of leaving a reasonable tip. … I’m glad to be giving something back because I’ve been so extraordinarily lucky and had such great pleasure from it.” I could live by that.

10. What’s a weird fact about you?

My whole life appears to have been a weird fact. But off the cuff, my most bloody injury to date was a lemur bite to the face. I was working at a zoo at the time and I was let into the enclosure of a lemur who hated men by an intern oblivious of the fact. There’s still blood stains on the zoo office floor to this day.

11. If you had a superpower what would it be?

Oh, definitely shapeshifting so I could perceive the world from an animal’s viewpoint. Imagine being able to dive through the air at 200mph as a peregrine falcon, dive as a seal or just be an absolute, chip-stealing bastard as a gull. That would be awesome.

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Kirsten Munday

Exeter Cornwall

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