Kingston: new study of borough's hedgehogs gets almost 50 volunteers as race to save endangered mammal continues

By Ellie Brown - Local Democracy Reporter

6th Jul 2021 | Local News

Kingston Council has teamed up with the Institute of Zoology to monitor hedgehog activity in the borough's gardens and nature reserves, and almost 50 residents have volunteered to help by setting up wildlife cameras in their back gardens.

Volunteers for the study will receive cameras that use infrared motion sensors to detect the movement of animals and trigger the recording of a video.

The programme is already underway across the Alexandra and Berrylands Wards and phase two will start in July-August extending to Elmbridge Meadows and Southwood Open Space.

Elliot Newton, Biodiversity Officer for Kingston Council said: "Hedgehogs ignite people's imagination of nature. They hook people into taking more notice of local biodiversity and wildlife but they're also one of the fastest declining mammals in the UK."

"There's a lot of causes for decline. Habitat fragmentation and habitat loss being a significant part of that.

"Interestingly we think that suburban areas where there's lots of gardens and parks will be the stronghold for these species moving forward.

"In suburban areas the decline is plateauing off, whereas in the countryside the decline is absolutely in free fall.

"Dr Chris Carbone [of the Zoological Society of London ] has been leading a project called HogWatch , so we've had discussions with him about trying to see if we could embrace that project.

"The institute put a small grant of £3,000 into the neighbour community grant fund and that enabled us to enter this project.

"What this has given us access to is 30 infrared wildlife cameras and also their staff to help monitor the data.

"We've now recruited 30 local volunteers who put wildlife cameras in their garden. The Kingston Mayor, Councillor Abraham has a camera in her garden as well.

"After deploying the cameras we'll get the staff to analyse the data to try and understand how the hedgehog population is doing and I'll help to curate a hedgehog plan which will be a part of Kingston's biodiversity plan.

"It should also help to engage people along the way and make people hedgehog champions.

"We've got future aspirations to roll out further across the borough. It's an integral part of the most comprehensive hedgehog survey that Kingston has ever seen.

"So we hope it will inform better management and more community engagement to make a place where hedgehogs and humans can thrive, side by side."

Dr Chris Carbone, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Zoology said: "We are absolutely delighted to be awarded funding from Kingston Council.

"The project will hopefully help to educate and inspire the community about these fascinating mammals, while also providing vital data that will inform conservation actions moving forward."

What can I do to help the hedgehogs?

One of the issues presented with hedgehog conservation is that people don't know if there are hedgehogs living in their garden. A good way to test this out is through the creation of a low-tech foot tunnel made from corrugated plastic and paper.

Council Biodiversity Officer Elliot Newton recommends the creation of a 'hedgehog highway' which involves cutting a 13 centimetre hole in your garden fence to connect it to other gardens, enabling hedgehogs to move through them undisturbed.

The State of Britain's Hedgehogs report from 2018 revealed that the proportion of sites recording hedgehogs in urban areas in Living with Mammals fell sharply from 2004 to 2012.

However, since then, the decline has been on a plateau from 2012 to 2018. This could be a positive sign, but gardens are steadily becoming less hedgehog friendly with the introduction of decking, patios and fake grass.

Now may be the best time to get involved with your local neighbourhood community and build a highway or create a small hole in your back garden to help support the endangered mammal and become a hedgehog champion.


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