Comment and analysis by Leicester Green Party, and its fellow-travellers
Less than three years ago, a national species for Britain was chosen and it was not the beautiful red fox or the soaring peregrine falcon, but the humble hedgehog, the noisy little insectivore that gardeners tend to love for its habit of devouring slugs. This animal is at home in gardens in both rural & urban areas, so the announcement was probably no surprise to nature lovers as its presence provides a charismatic anchor to the disappearing natural world for many of us.
However, the announcement was underpinned by a warning that the hedgehog is fast disappearing. Hedgehog Street, a national partnership between The People’s Trust for Endangered Species & The British Hedgehog Preservation Society, announce that in the UK it’s population is declining at about the same rate as the tiger in India. While some species are disappearing because human population is expanding, the hedgehog can thrive in urban areas if given the chance; in fact, many of the threats stem from how we use our gardens. If hedgehogs vanish, it will not be because it was inevitable, it will be because we made a choice – deliberately or otherwise – to force it out of our lives.
We’re already seeing this change locally. In 2013 Leicester City Council released the findings of the Hog-Watch Survey they undertook in partnership with Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust, Leicestershire County Council & Leicester Hedgehog Rescue, and found that when they compared the findings to a Leicestershire-wide survey from 1994 there were far fewer hedgehog road casualties in the city (an indicator of a dwindling population). Additionally, the 1994 survey itself acknowledged a prior population decline (which mirrors The State of Nature report from 2013 that recognises much wildlife had already vanished before populations began to be scientifically monitored in the UK).
Hedgehog Street have plenty of suggestions for what we can do to help the hedgehog in our gardens, but one thing they mentioned in their recently released ‘Conservation Strategy for West-European Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) in the United Kingdom 2015-2025‘ is an upgrade in legal protection – specifically, moving it from Schedule 6 of The Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 to Schedule 5.
Greens & Conservatives have many things to disagree on – but saving hedgehogs clearly isn’t one of them, I hope. Oliver Colvile, Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton & Devonport, has already thrown his weight behind the aforementioned strategy and kick-started a government petition that’s nearing 25,000 signatures. It ends on 11th August this year; I suggest all Greens & wildlife lovers sign it before it’s too late for our prickly friend – have a look at it here!