Spike in numbers: ZSL’s HogWatch reveals hedgehog havens in south west London

By Matt Trinder
February 22
2020, 11:30

A new survey suggests parts of south west London are a haven for hedgehogs.

Scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL)’s HogWatch programme have found hotspots of the endangered mammals in Barnes and Putney, as well as areas of north London.

The research, led by intern Rachel Cates and supported by Dr Chris Carbone, senior research fellow at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, involved placing hundreds of camera traps in parks and green spaces across the capital for a two-week period in 2019.

I SPY: PTES intern Rachel Cates prepares a camera trap Credit: Dr Chris Carbone

Miss Cates said: “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.”

Previous surveys conducted by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and the wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) found 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.

The largest population found by the latest survey is in Hampstead Heath in north London, where record numbers were seen.

In south west London 62 hedgehog sightings were recorded at the WWT Wetland Centre, Barnes Common, Putney Lower Common, Roehampton Golf Course, the Bank of England Sports Centre and on Palewell Common.

However, only one was spotted in the 65 camera locations in south-east London which included Dulwich Park and Peckham Rye.

It’s possible hedgehogs are living in these areas in private gardens, allotments and school grounds, but these were not included in the survey.

Mr Carbone said: “We’ve had very limited funds, we’re a project run on a shoestring, so there are far more areas to survey than we can afford to do at this stage.

“As things grow and funding comes in, we’ll be able to cover more of London and then I’ll be able to say with more confidence where exactly the hedgehog strongholds are.”

The PTES, which to date has awarded £6.5 million to research and conservation in the UK and internationally, is funding the internship on the project, one of 102 since 2002.

Grants manager Nida Al-Fulaij said: “Rachel and Chris’ work is so important. Helping us understand where hedgehogs are living and in what habitats gives us the best chance of successfully helping them.”

The ZSL recommends leaving a CD case sized hole in a garden fence to allow them to access neighbouring gardens, as well as to record sightings on the BIG Hedgehog Map.

Hedgehog Street, a nationwide campaign run by the BHPS and PTES, offers tips showing how people can make their garden more welcoming for hedgehogs.

Feature image credit: Dave Cooper for Hedgehog Street

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