Scientists from ZSL (Zoological Society of London)’s London HogWatch programme have found hotspots of native hedgehog populations in the north and west of London, compared to the south east of the city.
The research, led by Rachel Cates – an Intern funded by wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) – and supported by Dr Chris Carbone, Senior Research Fellow at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, involved placing hundreds of camera traps in several green spaces across the capital, from Haringey to Camden and from Southwark to Barnes. The cameras recorded any wildlife spotted over a two-week period throughout 2019.
The largest population found so far in Hampstead Heath in north Greater London, where there were a number of hedgehog records across the park. In the west of London – in the WWT Wetland Centre, Barnes Common, Putney Lower Common, Roehampton Golf Course, the Bank of England Sports Centre and on Palewell Common, 62 sightings were recorded within this area, with hedgehogs spotted on 13 of the 30 cameras set up in the WWT Wetland Centre alone. Hedgehogs were also seen across Barnes and on Putney Lower Common, but their distributions were fragmented.
However, snuffle south east across the city and a different picture is painted in Dulwich Park, Peckham Rye and Common, and Russia Dock Woodland. Only a single hedgehog was detected out of 65 camera locations. From the many records of foxes seen in these areas, it’s clear these areas are generally suitable for wildlife. As hedgehogs and foxes often live side by side, these areas should support hedgehogs, but the team are uncertain why they weren’t recorded. Occasional sightings are recorded in these areas, so it’s possible that hedgehogs are living in the areas surrounding the parks, in private gardens, allotments and school grounds.
Rachel Cates, PTES’ Intern, explains: “Interestingly, the habitat in the green spaces we investigated in the Southwark area is very similar to the areas where hedgehogs appear to be doing well. We don’t know why hedgehogs would be doing so well in some areas, but less so in others, when the habitats look similar. One explanation could be that these areas are isolated from larger green spaces, meaning there’s no safe passages to enable hedgehogs to access these sites from outside.”
A previous survey conducted by ZSL in 2018 showed that the best location for hedgehogs in London was Hampstead Heath, where hedgehogs were present at half of the 150 cameras set up, with 380 hedgehog sequences recorded. Work is still ongoing to find out the size of this population and why this area appears to be so good for hedgehogs. Nida Al-Fulaij, Grants Manager at PTES says: “It’s not surprising that the distribution of hedgehogs across London is patchy; London’s infrastructure is continuously growing and many of its green spaces are becoming harder for hedgehogs and other wildlife to access. The population in Regent’s Park is well-known and well-studied, but little is known about how hedgehogs are doing in other parts of the city. The next step is to understand why hedgehogs are doing well in some areas, but less so in others, which is why Rachel and Chris’ work is so important. By helping us understand where hedgehogs are living and in what habitats, gives us the best chance of successfully helping them.”
To date PTES has awarded £6.5 million to research and conservation in the UK and internationally, and has funded 102 internships since 2002, of which Rachel is one. The charity’s intern alumni includes conservationists working for wildlife NGOs, ecological consultancies, government agencies and universities. Previous interns have developed software to identify different animals moving through wildlife mitigation tunnels, produced parkland management guidelines for rare invertebrate species and worked on DNA extraction and identification to help stop the trade in endangered wildlife.
Internship projects like Rachel’s, and PTES’ long-running surveys Living with Mammals and Mammals on Roads, have been critical in highlighting the plight of hedgehogs in the UK. Data from these surveys contributed to the State of Britain’s Hedgehogs report, which was published in 2018 by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and PTES, and showed that half of rural hedgehogs have been lost from the countryside, and a third from towns and cities, since 2000. This is due to a combination of factors including agricultural intensification and pesticide use in rural areas, and lack of connectivity, fenced in gardens and busier roads in urban areas.
But, there’s lots that people can do to help hedgehogs in their own back gardens, from putting a CD case sized hole in a garden fence to recording sightings on the BIG Hedgehog Map. Hedgehog Street, a nationwide campaign run by BHPS and PTES, offers simple top tips showing how people can make their garden a hedgehog haven.
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For further information, interview requests, or images please contact Adela Cragg:
T: 07532 685 614
Notes to Editors
Available for interview:
- Rachel Cates, PTES’ Intern
- Nida Al-Fulaij, Grants Manager, PTES
- Dr Chris Carbone, Senior Research Fellow, ZSL’s Institute of Zoology
- PTES, a UK conservation charity created in 1977, is ensuring a future for endangered species throughout the world. We protect some of our most threatened wildlife species and habitats, and provide practical conservation support through research, grant-aid, educational programmes, wildlife surveys, publications and public events.
- PTES’ current priority species and habitats include hazel dormice, hedgehogs, water voles, noble chafers, stag beetles, traditional orchards, native woodlands, wood pasture and parkland and hedgerows.
- PTES has Species Champions for three of its priority species: for hedgehogs The Rt Hon Chris Grayling, MP for Epsom & Ewell, for water voles The Rt Hon Hilary Benn, MP for Leeds Central and Chair of the Brexit Select Committee, and for dormice The Rt Hon Matt Hancock, MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.
- Visit www.ptes.org and follow PTES on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
About ZSL (Zoological Society of London)
- Founded in 1826, ZSL (Zoological Society of London) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity whose mission is to promote and achieve the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. Our mission is realised through our ground-breaking science, our active conservation projects in more than 50 countries and our two Zoos, ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. For more information visit www.zsl.org