SAVE OUR HEDGEHOGS!
By Ann Evans
As towns and cities expand, eating up more and more of our countryside and woodlands, the natural habitats of native birds, wildlife, insects and pond-life diminishes.
Insect such as moths, butterflies and beetles are particularly declining; the lesser spotted woodpecker, the barbastelle bat, and the hedgehog are also disappearing before our eyes. In the 1950s there were 36.5 million hedgehogs in the UK but surveys over recent years have shown a dramatic downwards trend in hedgehog populations. Today it seems that there could be fewer than a million hedgehogs left in Great Britain.
Two years ago a report put together by leading conservationists, research organisations and scientists undertook a ‘stock take’ of the country’s natural species. It was the first time such a report had been put together and results showed that 60 per cent of the species studied had declined over recent decades.
Fortunately, we have a network of dedicated conservation groups and millions of people who love wildlife and are striving to conserve nature and wildlife for future generations. Many belong to The Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts (RSWT) which is a charity founded in 1912 by banker and philanthropist Charles Rothschild. The organisation comprises of 47 individual Wildlife Trusts covering the whole of the UK, the Isle of Man and Alderney.
At every Wildlife Trust, you’ll find hectares of unspoilt nature reserves which are havens for wildlife and ideal places for families, children and school parties to learn more about nature. There are always projects and activities going on involving the local communities, plus major conservation studies.
Close to my own home town in the Midlands, The Warwickshire Wildlife Trust is at Brandon Marsh Nature Centre, on the outskirts of Coventry. It was opened by Sir David Attenborough in 1992.
One of Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s latest projects has been to launch the UK’s first hedgehog conservation area and have selected Solihull as the location for the Hedgehog Improvement Area (HIA). Thanks to funding from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) the initiative is in response to the national decline in hedgehog numbers. The aim being to increase the area’s hedgehog population, inspire local people and organisations to get involved in order to prevent the extinction of these loveable creatures.
Fay Vass, Chief Executive of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society said: “We are delighted to be funding such an exciting and important project in Warwickshire that will hopefully benefit many hedgehogs. Simple measures such as ensuring there is a five inch gap in boundary walls and fences make a massive difference to local hedgehog populations. There are many ways people can assist this declining species and we hope this project will complement our work to highlight the plight of the hedgehog.”
At the heart of the initiative will be a 90 hectare ‘Hedgehog Reserve’, incorporating Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council’s Elmdon Park and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s Elmdon Manor nature reserve. A group of volunteer ‘wildlife guardians’ will be recruited to aid in the management of this area of green space, helping to establish a central sanctuary from which the hedgehog population will be able to disperse and inhabit the surrounding area.
They are hoping that the residents of Elmdon will open up their private gardens to hedgehogs by simply making a five inch hole in their garden fence. Radiating out from the central ‘Hedgehog Reserve’ the HIA team aims to connect as many gardens in Solihull as possible; making a radical increase in the area of habitat available for hedgehogs within the urban environment.
Simon Thompson, Hedgehog Officer, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust said: “I’m really proud to be working on a project which has its feet so firmly grounded in grass-roots conservation. Local people and businesses have the opportunity to be involved with every level of the project. Whether getting hands-on with habitat management or borrowing a remote camera to conduct a survey in a back garden, everyone can get involved, ultimately helping to secure a bright future for hedgehogs in their community.”
The work of the Hedgehog Improvement Area can be followed from all across the UK on Twitter and Facebook, through Warwickshire Wildlife Trust (@WKWT) and the Help For The Hedgehogs Campaign (@Help4Hedgehogs).
For the opportunity to get involved in the HIA project, whether it be through surveying for hedgehogs in your garden or through participating in hedgehog volunteering opportunities, simply visit: www.helpforhedgehogs.co.uk to register your interest today.
You can discover where your nearest Wildlife Trust is located by visiting The Wildlife Trusts website: www.wildlifetrusts.org