UP CLOSE WITH: the Teddington 7-year-old who wants to be the next David Attenborough

  Posted: 28.11.20 at 13:00 by Ellie Brown

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Sir David has inspired many around the world with his informative and stunningly shot nature documentaries.

Now seven-year-old Jasper Coates dreams of following in his idol’s footsteps and travelling the world to find rare animals.

He loves to photograph and draw animals, and regularly explores Teddington and further afield to look for wildlife.

Here’s what happened when we caught up with Jasper and his mum Annabel on zoom earlier this week.

A born naturalist

Annabel told me that Jasper first got interested in animals when he was just three years old.

She said: “We moved when he was three and there were snails all over the garden.

“And he’s been obsessed ever since!”

Like Princess Charlotte, Jasper is a fan of spiders and other creepy crawlies.

One of his favourites is the orchid mantis, an exotic insect which lives in the Amazon rainforest.

“They’ve got quite a cool camouflage,” he said.

“The praying mantis, the green one, they haven’t got much of a good camouflage.

“The orchid mantis can just sit on a pink and white flower for ages without any birds or anything noticing it’s there.

“And any fly or beetle that lands on the flower - next thing they will be in half!”

He also likes the executioner wasp, which his mum says he saw on YouTuber Coyote Peterson’s show.

“It stings you and it will be very rare if you survive a sting,” he said.

Adventures in animal-spotting

Jasper may only be seven but he’s already encountered a range of interesting creatures in Teddington.

He found a rare stink bug in his back garden during lockdown earlier this year.

“I closed my hand and I opened it again because I smelled something,” he said.​

“Then I opened up and it had sprayed all the poison stuff onto me.”

In the parks he has seen a little egret by the streams, toads under logs by the ponds, and even a grass snake swimming in Bushy Park lake.

At half term this year, his family took him to Birdland Park and Gardens in Bourton-on-the-water.

“We saw a penguin and we saw flamingos and we saw a black swan,” he said, eyes lighting up as he remembered the trip.

He has a giant peacock feather which he found during a trip to the zoo and keeps a feather collection in a zip-lock bag.

Future plans?

Like his hero Sir David, Jasper wants to travel the world to see the exotic creatures he’s read about.

These include the red-eyed tree frog and the poisonous dart frog, both of which live in the Amazon rainforest, Brazil.

“Their bright colour is to show that they’re poisonous and you don’t wanna mess with them” said Jasper.

He added that the frogs are so poisonous they can kill a person.

As well as the Amazon, Jasper would like to see America for its unusual animals and visit the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

Jasper said that he likes animals so much because they are so interesting.

“There’s a lot of different ones, I don’t actually know if I know them all,” he said.

His favourite documentary of Sir David’s is the recent Netflix film A Life On Our Planet, which shows how climate change is affecting the Earth’s ecosystems.

Annabel said: “He was sad because he saw the polar bears with not much ice and the trees were being cut down, weren’t they.”

“And we also saw the walruses falling onto the sharp rocks” added Jasper.

Jasper is already sharing his love of nature with others.

He made a minibeast quiz for his class in the last lockdown and often goes out exploring with his younger brother Felix, who their mum says has been inspired by Jasper.

In his spare time, he draws animals in his sketchbook, including a toucan, a lizard and a red-tailed kingfisher.

He is also a keen wildlife photographer and has snapped photos of butterflies, beetles and penguins.

We look forward to seeing what Jasper does next!

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