The Ingenious (And Pint-Sized) Plan To Save London's Hedgehogs

It involves tunnels and highways!

The hedgehog population in London has been steadily declining for years, so a group called Barnes Hedgehogs came up with a creative way to make one of the world's busiest cities more hospitable to the furry creatures.

Though Mental Floss estimates about a million hedgehogs currently roam the streets, parks, and gardens of England's capital, that number is drastically less than what it was in the 1950s, when the hedgehog population was believed to be in the tens of millions. In fact, according to Environment Trust — a U.K. organization dedicated to engaging people in improving, preserving and protecting their local environment — the hedgehog population in the U.K. has decreased by thirty percent in the last decade alone. 

Part of the reason for this drastic decline is human development and habitat destruction, as farmers aren't particularly fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs are likely to take refuge in and make into homes. And even in places where such hedgehog-friendly environments do exist, it can be difficult for the animals to gain access to them because of fences without holes or gaps.

With that in mind, Barnes Hedgehogs has spent the last four years creating a series of hedgehog tunnels around London that allow the creatures to safely travel from one suitable environment to the next. As you can see from the picture above, many of these so-called tunnels are created by carving pathways (or "highways") through stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens.

Though Barnes Hedgehogs founder Michel Birkenwald has no background in environmental science or zoology, he saw a problem and set out to find a way to fix it. "I am just an average guy who decided to help one of our most adorable mammals," he told Atlas Obscura.

Believe it or not, Birkenwald isn't the only Londoner willing to lend hedgehogs a hand. The outlet also notes that Emily Wilson, who is affiliated with another advocacy group called Hedgehog Streets, is in talks with fencing companies and developers to manufacture and install dividers with predrilled holes, which would make things much easier for hedgehogs.

In the meantime, Environment Trust has pointers for those looking to help the hedgehog population flourish (tips include keeping your gardens filled with long grass, leaves, and wood as opposed to keeping them manicured) and the organization even has an interactive map people can use to track hedgehog sightings. Though it may seem silly, reporting these encounters is helpful in protecting hedgehogs and their habitats.

A Plus reached out to Barnes Hedgehogs for comment.

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