A hedgehog conservationist has labelled warnings that the spikey creatures might totally disappear from our countryside within ten years as “complete b******s”.
Author and ecologist Hugh Warwick said warnings hedgehogs would vanish in ten years were counterproductive to efforts to preserve the seriously threatened animals.
Former Countryfile presenter Michaela Strachan said hedgehogs were in “critical danger”, telling the Radio Times: “If we don’t do anything about them they will be gone in ten years.”
But Mr Warwick told The Independent: “We are not seeing the imminent extinction of hedgehogs and saying so is not helpful on many levels”.
“If you get a bunch of idiots jumping around saying hedgehogs will become extinct and in ten years’ time they don’t, it undermines the credibility of realistic fears,” he said.
Hedgehog numbers are believed to have fallen to around one million since the 1950s, when an estimated 30 million inhabited our countryside and gardens, according to figures from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.
Mr Warwick continued that conservationists were concerned about the numbers of hedgehogs living in “minimum viable locations”, or the amount of land – thought by some to be roughly equivalent to two tennis courts – hedgehogs require to survive.
He said “the main problem” was that although there were pockets of hedgehogs throughout the country, these patches were often not linked - curtailing the animals’ ability to forage successfully.
Animals in decline
Animals in decline
1/8 Harbour seal (Phoca vitulina)
Where: Orkney Islands. What: Between 2001-2006, numbers in Orkney declined by 40 per cent. Why: epidemics of the phocine distemper virus are thought to have caused major declines, but the killing of seals in the Moray Firth to protect salmon farms may have an impact.
2/8 African lion (Panthera leo)
Where: Ghana. What: In Ghana’s Mole National Park, lion numbers have declined by more than 90 per cent in 40 years. Why: local conflicts are thought to have contributed to the slaughter of lions and are a worrying example of the status of the animal in Western and Central Africa.
3/8 Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
Where: Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Costa Rica. What: Numbers are down in both the Atlantic and Pacific. It declined by 95 per cent between 1989-2002 in Costa Rica. Why: mainly due to them being caught as bycatch, but they’ve also been affected by local developments.
4/8 Wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans)
Where: South Atlantic. What: A rapid decline. One population, from Bird Island, South Georgia, declined by 50 per cent between 1972-2010, according to the British Antarctic Survey. Why: being caught in various commercial longline fisheries.
5/8 Saiga Antelope (Saiga tatarica)
Where: Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan. What: fall in populations has been dramatic. In the early 1990s numbers were over a million, but are now estimated to be around 50,000. Why: the break up of the former USSR led to uncontrolled hunting. Increased rural poverty means the species is hunted for its meat
6/8 Swordfish (Xiphias gladius)
Where: found worldwide in tropical, subtropical and temperate seas. Why: at risk from overfishing and as a target in recreational fishing. A significant number of swordfish are also caught by illegal driftnet fisheries in the Mediterranean
7/8 Argali Sheep (Ovis mammon)
Where: Central and Southern Asian mountains,usually at 3,000-5,000 metres altitude. Why: domesticated herds of sheep competing for grazing grounds. Over-hunting and poaching.
8/8 Humphead Wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus)
Where: the Indo-Pacific, from the Red Sea to South Africa and to the Tuamoto Islands (Polynesia), north to the Ryukyu Islands (south-west Japan), and south to New Caledonia. Why: Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing and trading of the species
“You get all these old dears shrieking that they’ve put in special compost and lifted up their tennis nets,” he said. “But many people forget the most important thing is to connect each pocket.”
Fay Vass, the chief executive of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, also rebutted the ten years’ disappearance – but stressed that hedgehogs were “declining at a rapid rate”.
“The biggest danger facing hedgehogs is the loss and fragmentation of habitat,” said Ms Vass, whose organisation is partnered with the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species and advises gardeners how to make small changes to encourage hedgehogs.Reuse content