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Richmond wildlife enthusiast appeals for help building hedgehog highway

A Richmond wildlife enthusiast has appealed for support to build a ‘hedgehog highway’ from Kingston to Barnes with aid of a charity organisation.

Lee Yeates, a stay-at-home dad, began the project, which would run through residents’ gardens across Richmond, by appealing to the public on Facebook and has since gained support from south-west London based organisation Habitats and Heritage.

Yeates, who also runs a homemade bird-box business, said it was his upbringing in leafy West Sussex which inspired his love of nature and motivation for the project.

He added: “The main aim was to attract hedgehogs to people’s gardens. Enjoy them.

“Hedgehogs have no community garden. They’re surrounded, obviously, by houses. My plan for now is to try and use as much natural space and then link it.”

The route will begin in Kingston cemetery and hedgehogs will be encouraged to peoples’ gardens providing homes for them and holes in garden fences and walls.

Colin Cooper, CEO of Habitats and Heritage, champions projects by Yeates and others for their effort to sustain local wildlife through habitat restoration.

He said: “Through the lockdowns, our connection to nature has deepened. I think any projects that retain that and develop a deeper connection with nature in our locality should be supported and encouraged.”

Habitat restoration projects have been in decline and, according to London Wildlife Trust, the hedgehog population of London has decreased by approximately a third over the past two decades.

Cooper added: “It’s very, very concerning. And it might be that in our lifetimes that we see the species go extinct.

“It’s a non-contentious issue. It doesn’t matter what people’s political aspirations are, everyone wants to improve their street so that where they live is a better community.”

The organisation are encouraging Yeates and others to fit the hedgehog homes with webcams in them, so members of the public can post images of hedgehog activity on social media.

This practice is currently in operation by London organisation HogWatch, who record the movement of hedgehogs through webcams and the use of infrared motion detectors.

Yeates delivered his first hedgehog home to a highway volunteer on 3 April.

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