Words by Smiley Team
Did you know hedgehogs are vulnerable to extinction in Britain?
The animals are suffering up to 75% declines since the year 2000 because of habitat loss and fragmentation from industrial agriculture, urban developments, roads and garden hazards.
That’s why a revived campaign – Hedgehog Friendly Campus, which is funded by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society – is much needed.
Jo Wilkinson, 33, Programme Manager for Hedgehog Friendly Campus, tells Smiley News that campuses have lots of green space that can be used for good and a community of staff and students who want to learn how they can help. “We work with universities, FE colleges and primary schools, providing tailored steps and advice to make their campus more hedgehog friendly,” she says.
Hedgehogs are the nation’s favourite mammal, says Jo. “They get people’s attention because they’re covered in spikes but they’ve also got cultural relevance,” she says. “Think Beatrix Potter’s Mrs Tiggywinkle, the government’s Green Cross Code adverts and all of those hedgehog mugs you’re hoarding in the cupboard.
“They offer us a rare glimpse into wild nature, because they don’t have a fight or flight response, making them one of the few wild animals we can observe and appreciate up close (albeit often in a prickly ball).”
Because hedgehogs feed on soil invertebrates, they’re used as an ecological indicator, with a decline in hedgehogs indicating a decline in the ecosystem’s health. “When numbers go down, it’s a sign that something’s really wrong,” she says. “So, they’re kind of an unwilling emblem of the biodiversity crisis.”
Since Hedgehog Friendly Campus launched in 2019, more than 160 universities, FE colleges and primary schools have registered to take part. 105 of them have gained a Hedgehog Friendly Campus award for their work in February 2022.
“They’ve all been working to protect hedgehogs from hazards like litter, bonfires, poisons and strimmer and enhancing habitats on campus through planting trees, leaving spaces to grow wild and creating hedgehog highways,” says Jo. “Importantly, they’ve also been helping to educate their staff and students on how they can help hedgehogs at home.
“We’ve had hundreds of volunteers who all get something different out of taking part. Whether it’s a chance to meet new people, a way to gain skills in practical conservation or just a chance to give something back to a species that needs us, there’s something in it for everyone.”
GET INVOLVED: Email [email protected] to find out how to get involved.