The race to save Britain’s hedgehogs

Out of sight: Hedgehogs are nocturnal, which means that they are mostly active at night.

How hard should we be trying to save hedgehogs? According to research, their population is shrinking fast in Britain. But the same goes for many other species. Which is the most important?

What’s happening

Hedgehogs are becoming harder to find in Britain. A BBC survey found that 51% of people did not see a single one in 2016. In 2015, that number was 48%. These numbers are backed up by other studies, which show that the hedgehog population is falling fast — in both cities and the countryside.

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In the 1950s, the nation is thought to have been home to thirty million hedgehogs. Now not even a million of the spiky critters remain. This is sad: Britons regularly vote the hedgehog as their favourite animal.

Hedgehogs require a large habitat, but in cities our green spaces are being broken up by roads and fences. The animals nest and move around in hedgerows (hence the name) which are disappearing from the countryside. Pesticides also harm them indirectly by killing the insects that they eat.

Some people are helping the hogs, such as by cutting holes in their fences to give them more space to roam. But they are not the only species under threat: scientists warn that we are in a period of “mass extinction”. Are hedgehogs really a priority?

Some say…

No. Hedgehogs are what we call a “charismatic” species: our love for them makes us want to protect them. But in reality, other endangered animals are more important. Take flying insects: a recent study found that their population has fallen by 75% in recent decades. Without them, our ecosystems will collapse. Let’s focus on saving them first.

Others think…

Hedgehogs deserve all our attention. It would it be tragic if our favourite animal went extinct. Moreover, it would be bad for conservation in general. If you regularly see cute little hedgehogs, you are more likely to feel passionately about all wildlife — and getting people interested in animals is the only way to save them.

You Decide

  1. Should we focus on saving species that we like?

Activities

  1. Over the next month, make a note of all the wildlife you see in your area. If you don’t recognise the species, just write down a description. At the end, tally it all up. What did you find?
  2. To make the challenge easier, you can leave out birds and insects.

Some People Say...

“We shouldn’t worry about extinctions – they happen all the time.”

What do you think?

Word Watch

51% of people
Only 12% see hedgehogs regularly.
Habitat
The natural environment in which an animal or plant lives.
Nest
Hedgehogs build their nests mostly from moss, leaves and grass.
Mass extinction
Scientists count six mass extinctions — periods in which many species are wiped out at once — in Earth’s history. The current one is the first to be linked to human activity.
Ecosystems
A community of living things which all depend on each other in some way to survive.

Subjects

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