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International Hedgehog Conference

By 20th March 2024News

Erinaceus europaeus

On the 13th-14th January 2024, over 200 wildlife rehabilitators, researchers and conservation practitioners gathered at Hartpury University (UK) for the International Conference for Hedgehog Rehabilitators. The meeting presented the perfect opportunity for strengthening collaboration between hedgehog scientists and carers around the world! 

A variety of topics were covered during the two-day conference. Attendees had the chance to hear from UK NGOs about hedgehog conservation plans, from vets presenting talks on medical treatment and intervention, and from researchers discussing projects on pesticides, diet and wildlife rescue. Co-organisers Dr Lucy Bearman-Brown and Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen hosted workshops on the development of an international hedgehog records database as well as research priorities.  

Whilst most of the attendees’ work focuses on the West European Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus), there was also talk of other Erinaceids including the Northern White-breasted Hedgehog (Erinaceus roumanicus), which is found in contact zones with E. europaeus. Dr Barbora Bolfíková has been studying the genetics of hedgehogs in these overlapping areas of distribution. The SMSG’s Programme Officer, Dr Abi Gazzard, spoke about two additional species, the Long-eared (Hemiechinus auritus) and North African Hedgehog (Atelerix algirus), in the presentation “Assessing the Statuses of Hedgehogs in Europe”, giving an overview Red Listing and where the obvious data gaps occur. We also heard about a hedgehog from southern India: SMSG member Dr Brawin Kumar introduced us to his Madras Hedgehog (Paraechinus nudiventris) project. Brawin’s work has done an excellent job of raising the profile of this little-known species. Through school sessions, traditional puppet shows, comic books, and questionnaire surveys, Brawin has engaged with local communities across the Tamil Nadu region. 

Rounding off the conference, the attendees heard about hedgehogs from a different angle – as pests. In Uist, Scotland, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is developing a project to conserve ground-nesting birds threatened by introduced West European Hedgehogs, though their plans consider the challenges faced by hedgehogs in their native range.  

It was brilliant to attend a conference with such an open-minded audience from a wide range of disciplines, though one common goal is clear – ensuring the preservation of these prickly, popular small mammals. 

Many thanks to the event’s organisers, supporters, speakers and attendees, and to Hartpury University for hosting us.

Below: Abi Gazzard and Brawin Kumar at the conference, and Brawin presenting on the Madras Hedgehog.

Author: Abi Gazzard (SMSG Programme Officer)