Campaigners in Putney and Roehampton have succeeded in bringing about the installation of hedgehog road signs, following a petition launched to protect the endangered creatures.
SW15 Hedgehogs gathered over 1,000 signatures and proposed the campaign to Wandsworth Borough Council, who last week agreed to provide road signs alerting drivers to the presence of hedgehogs within the local community.
Founder Jacqueline Underwood-Hall launched the appeal after discovering that over 100,000 hedgehogs are killed on UK roads every year.
She said: “The support we received made clear that this is something the public wanted.
“People love hedgehogs – they want to save them.
“We really should be doing all we can to protect our wildlife.”
Research conducted in 2019 by the Department for Transport revealed that not only do the hedgehog warning signs succeed in protecting the small mammal population, but they also help reduce road traffic incidents in general.
Former Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced the introduction of small mammal road signs last year, which Jacqueline said brought much needed attention to the issue.
She explained: “So many people don’t realise how much these animals are struggling – now that we’ve invaded their habitat with roads, buildings and cars, many have to walk for miles upon miles to get to a safe drinking area.
“I think just because we don’t see them we assume they’re okay.
“It’s why this has become my obsession – making sure that people understand that they are responsible for helping these creatures and advising on ways they can do that.”
Despite the recent success, Jacqueline originally faced some resistance to the campaign after being told by the council that she would have to prove that residents would not oppose the installation.
She had to secure support from 51% of the community, which she said seemed a mammoth task in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Jacqueline said: “Because of Covid-19, it was difficult to start these conversations to gain support as many people were afraid of answering the door.
“We invested in PPE equipment and gave hand sanitiser to everyone who signed the petition, but we completely understood and respected where the anxiety came from.
“Once people understood what we were campaigning for though, they were keen to support and were actually quite angry that the seemingly simple act of protecting wildlife had to be so vigorously campaigned for.”
SW15 Hedgehogs were supported in the campaign by Hedgehog Friendly Campus at Roehampton University, which is run by Jacqueline’s husband Nigel Hall, as well as by Fleur Anderson, Labour MP for Putney, Southfields and Roehampton.
Jacqueline said: “It’s been a labour of love – the community support has been great, with volunteers joining us in all kinds of weather.
“I’ve really appreciated the residents who have gotten involved and would like to thank Fleur Anderson, who has been such an incredible help.”
Fleur Anderson said: “Congratulations to all the volunteers – the campaign has a lot of local support and shows the deep love of nature and wildlife we have in Putney.
“Too many hedgehogs are killed on the roads and these signs will save the lives of an endangered species.”
The organisation, which Jacqueline started in 2017, also works with the community to educate people on how to care for hedgehogs.
A team of volunteers, including Jacqueline’s daughter Maya and son Michael, help care for injured hedgehogs and assist residents with installing ‘hedgehog highways.’
These are small holes in fences, trees and hedges designed to provide hedgehogs with safe passageways to travel through.
Jacqueline added: “It’s so simple to help them – you can put out a bowl of water, pick up litter, or add more hedging outside your house so these animals have a safe space to stay. If everyone could do what they can, it would make a huge difference.”
For more information on SW15 Hedgehogs, you can visit their social media.
Featured Image Credit: Piotr Laskawski