A day in the life of a PTES Hedgehog Intern

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Meet Rachel. She is one of our wonderful interns for 2019. See what she gets up to in a day as she works on her project to understand urban hedgehog populations in London.

Any excuse to leave the office

My day starts in the Conservation Technology storeroom at London Zoo. I need to prepare 70 camera traps to put out across The Regent’s Park later in the morning. I’m using a clever method that can determine how many hedgehogs are living in the park, just from the photos taken on the camera traps – and a little maths! Since Regent’s Park is right outside the Zoological Society of London building, I have plenty of staff and students volunteering; they seem keen to use any excuse to leave the office! Running surveys elsewhere in London is usually more laborious as I have to find volunteers from elsewhere, which can take more time. The Regent’s Park survey is our special case study.  We’ve surveyed this park every year since our project began, three years ago. This repetition will provide us with a longer-term data set which we can use to get a in depth look at the activity of this particular hedgehog population.

Rachel setting up a wildlife camera

Training starts with the “pole dance”

Fortunately, the weather is good today. It can be a challenge to recruit enough volunteers when it’s raining! I run a brief training session before we start, demonstrating how to set the camera traps. This includes how to use a large black and white striped measuring pole to calibrate the camera, affectionately known as the “pole dance”. I tend get some odd looks from passers-by when doing this! Demonstration over, the volunteers head into the park to find their allocated sites using Google maps. We take our cameras to put up in areas that are not accessible to the public, then hurry back to ZSL. It takes around two hours for everyone to get back. With all cameras now successfully deployed the survey can begin!

A glimpse of a hoglet

Just as we are about to pack away, I receive an email from someone at The Royal Parks saying there are two baby hedgehogs in one of the park’s nest boxes. We grab one of the spare camera traps and set it up outside the nest box, careful to position it in such a way that it won’t be obtrusive and disturb them. Hopefully we will get some good photos of baby hedgehogs over the next month or so.

I finish my day in the office, tagging photos from one of our previous surveys. No hedgehogs yet, but I do see some badgers. They may not be our target species but it’s still exciting to see them!

Rachel Cates is one of our dedicated interns for 2019. Our internships offer the brightest future UK-based conservationists the chance to work on a specific conservation project in the UK for up to 18 months. Our PTES intern alumni now include active conservationists in universities, government agencies, conservation NGOs and ecological consultancies.

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