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Press release: Hedgehog decline in UK urban jungle comparable to loss of world’s tigers

Charities call on volunteers to help survey threatened hedgehogs

Hedgehog numbers in Britain are declining by three to five per cent each year in towns and in the rural landscape, with the loss most apparent in the South West, South East and Eastern regions of England, according to the results of a ten-year trend analysis by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES).

Between 2001 and 2011, records of hedgehogs in the Trust’s annual Mammals on Roads survey fell by 32 per cent; over a similar period, 2003 to 2012, records of hedgehogs in green urban and suburban spaces, documented in the yearly Living with Mammals survey, fell by 37 per cent.

The ten-year analysis of these two surveys further supports evidence highlighted in The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs (a report in 2011 by PTES and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society) that hedgehog numbers in Britain are declining dramatically.  The trends show a loss as rapid as that of the world’s tigers and, in the bird world, would be given a ‘red alert’ listing.

“Continuous monitoring each year is vital to help us build a more complete picture of the state of the UK’s wild mammal populations,” explains PTES Surveys Officer David Wembridge.  “Over the last twenty years or so, the world’s tiger population is thought to have halved.  Although they are very different animals and there are many fewer tigers left in the wild, the fact that we are losing hedgehogs in Britain as quickly, should ring alarm bells as loudly.”

In an effort to gather further data about hedgehogs, PTES and BHPS are appealing to volunteers to take part in the Hedgehog Hibernation Survey which starts on Friday 1 February.  Now in its second year, this survey is in an attempt to find out more about the creature’s patterns of behaviour, which in turn will help inform practical conservation action.

BHPS CEO Fay Vass says: “Last year, more than 2,000 volunteers helped collect the biggest dataset on hedgehog hibernation habits ever recorded.  What we urgently need is more information at the local level to help us better understand the challenges faced by the nation’s hedgehogs.”

To join in the Hibernation Survey, which starts on 1 February 2013, visit www.hegehogstreet.org

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MEDIA CONTACTS 

For further information, images to arrange interviews contact: Jane Bevan or Susannah Penn at Firebird PR on 01235 835297 / 07977 459547 or via email to sp@firebirdpr.co.uk           

NOTES TO EDITORS

·        Hedgehog sightings are recorded through several annual wildlife surveys and anindependent study – The State of Britain’s’ Hedgehogs – was commissioned by PTES and BHPS from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to compare the results of data gathered from these surveys over the last 15 years.  This review, published in 2011, established clear scientific evidence of the dramatic decline in hedgehog populations across the UK.

·        The reasons for the decline in UK hedgehog numbers are complex, but are thought to be associated with the loss of hedgerows and permanent grasslands; the intensification of agriculture and larger field sizes; and the use of pesticides which reduce the amount of prey available. While urban and suburban areas have becoming increasingly important for hedgehog survival, with gardens in particular recording the highest average number of wild mammals among typically urban sites, the move towards tidy, sterile gardens has also contributed to their demise.

·        PTES joined with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society to launch Hedgehog Street in 2011, an initiative encouraging members of the public to create and link hedgehog-friendly gardens.  Since then, more than 23,000 volunteers have registered to become Hedgehog Champions.

·        PTES and BHPS are also funding several research projects looking into the causes of hedgehog decline and trialling more accurate monitoring methods.

·        In January 2012, PTES and BHPS launched ahibernation survey, with members of the public reporting sightings of active hedgehogs over a seven month period. The survey is being repeated again this year to see whether regional differences, first detected through research undertaken 40 years ago still hold true, and if changing weather patterns are playing a significant role in behavioural change.

·        PTES is a UK conservation charity created in 1977 to ensure a future for endangered species throughout the world. Working to protect some of our most threatened wildlife species and habitats, it provides practical conservation support through funding research and internships; providing grant-aid for world-wide and native mammals species’ conservation; supporting education, training and outreach programmes; and driving public participation via wildlife monitoring surveys, publications, campaigns and events. Priority species and habitats include the hazel dormouse, hedgehogs, beavers, noble chafer and stag beetles and traditional orchards and native woodlands.

·        The International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, Red List is designed to determine the relative risk of extinction.  Its main purpose is to catalogue and highlight those plants and animals that are facing a higher risk of global extinction.

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