Animal activists plan to rescue hedgehogs

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The Independent Online

Animal rights activists may confront Scottish Natural Heritage to save thousands of hedgehogs due to be exterminated on Scottish islands. The determination of SNH to slaughter up to 300 of the animals on North Uist this spring has galvanised a coalition of the activists to consider an "emergency rescue".

Animal rights activists may confront Scottish Natural Heritage to save thousands of hedgehogs due to be exterminated on Scottish islands. The determination of SNH to slaughter up to 300 of the animals on North Uist this spring has galvanised a coalition of the activists to consider an "emergency rescue".

SNH said last year it would kill more than 5,000 hedgehogs on the islands of North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist, because European law insisted that important populations of wading birds be protected. Hedgehogs have devoured thousands of eggs, reducing some colonies by up to 60 per cent over 30 years.

Worldwide condemnation of the plan has caused fierce arguments between SNH and animal welfare groups, who want to save all the animals by moving them to the mainland. Police from Northern Constabulary have been put on alert for the imminent arrival of rescue teams to the Western Isles in the next few weeks after agreement could not be reached on a scientific trial to move the animals.

Les Ward, director of Advocates for Animals, said: "It is clear they [SNH] always intended to have a cull and any talk of co-operation with us was just a cynical public relations farce. We will now have to accept that SNH will probably get their hands on some hedgehogs and kill them. We have no choice but to get all the opposition groups together and mount a rescue."

A spokesman for SNH said: "Moving hedgehogs from the islands to the mainland could cause significant suffering both to those animals moved and to mainland hedgehogs. We will be taking all reasonable precautions to ensure our staff is fully protected."

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