Brian May fronts new animal protection pledge
BRIAN MAY is calling for hedgehogs to be given urgent Government protection to save them from vanishing from both town and countryside
7 February 2017 by Stuart Winter
Queen guitarist Brian May’s Save Me wildlife charity has become a strong ally of the hedgehog
The Queen guitarist, whose Save Me wildlife charity has become a strong ally of Britain’s favourite wild creature, wants greater efforts made to stop harmful activities putting them at risk.
A petition launched by the chief executive of his charity has gone live in the wake of news that hedgehog numbers have halved in the UK since 2000. From the 1950s, numbers have crashed from 30 million to fewer than one million.
The e-petition calls for ministers to make hedgehogs an “officially protected species” and to limit activities which may “disturb, degrade or destroy their habitats”.
Calling on animal lovers to support the move, Dr May said today: “These cute little creatures are such an intrinsic part of our landscape and heritage for millennia – we have to take action to help save them. Please sign the petition today to make them a protected species and follow our guide to make your own garden ‘hedgehog friendly.”
These cute little creatures are such an intrinsic part of our landscape and heritage for millennia – we have to take action to help save them
Environment Secretary Michael Grove’s Sussex Heath constituency is already home to the first “hedgehog friendly village” at Windlesham and recently the minister came face to face with one of the creatures voted Britain’s favourite wild mammal when he visited the Harper Asprey Wildlife Rescue’s headquarters at Windlesham, which is in his constituency.
Chief executive at Save Me and founder of the rescue centre Anne Brummer said: “Many of us can remember hedgehogs being a common sight but very few of us see them today. We have made the village of Windlesham Hedgehog Friendly and will continue through the constituency. With the support of Micheal Gove, we are now working to make Surrey Heath the first Hedgehog Friendly Borough.”
With hedgehog numbers plunging in the countryside, the groups behind the new report, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, plan to engage with farming communities to halt declines.
Householders are also being urged to sign up as “hedgehog champions” and help them through simple measures such as putting out wet cat and dog food, leaving wild areas for them to nest and making holes in the fence for them to move from garden to garden.
Data from three surveys, including one measuring hedgehog casualties on roads, suggest numbers of the species – immortalised by Beatrix Potter in the Tale Of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle – have declined in rural areas by half since 2000.
They face problems from intensive farming, including a loss of hedgerows and bigger fields which reduce available habitat, and use of pesticides and tillage which reduces prey such as grubs and earthworms.
While badgers are known to be predators of hedgehogs, Emily Wilson, hedgehog officer for Hedgehog Street, a public action campaign run by the two groups, said there was no evidence they were a major cause of declines.
“There are many reasons hedgehogs are in trouble,” she said.
“The intensification of agriculture through the loss of hedgerows and permanent grasslands, increased field sizes, and the use of pesticides which reduce the amount of prey available, are all associated with the plunge in numbers of hedgehogs in rural areas.”
Measures which could arrest the declines include providing more field margins, hedgerows and scrubby areas which create more habitat for the animals to live, nest and feed in.
With the UK leaving the European Union, ministers have indicated a redesign of the subsidy system could see a shift away from payments for land owned to rewarding public goods such as protecting wildlife, which could help hedgehogs.
Ms Wilson added: “Urban and suburban areas are becoming increasingly important for hedgehogs, so we need more people in those locations to sign up as hedgehog champions.
“Hedgehogs are a generalist species, so the more people can do to help them in their own back garden, the more they will also benefit other wildlife.”
To see details of the hedgehog petition, visit https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/209872