saving species

My first, and last, real job was with Natural History Radio in Bristol, part of the elite BBC unit that produces the ultimate in blue-chip wildlife films. It was a fascinating insight into that amazing world, it turned me on to radio and also made me realise that I am not really cut out for a real job (and have been freelance ever since).

So it was really exciting to be back in the studio this morning to do a live insert into the new 40 week series, Saving Species. What a turn around – for the first time ever, a programme of this scale has been commissioned with the express focus of looking at conservation. And I got my chance on the second episode – which, just in case you missed it (!) is available to listen again here …. It can also be downloaded here …. My bit crops up about 7.30 minutes into the programme if you are impatient.

I just loved the look on presenter Bret Westwood’s face as I advocated people taking sledgehammers to fences, decking and patios in the quest for a hedgehog-friendly garden!

I would love feedback – I really enjoyed doing the show and hope to do more. I also recorded a longer interview that will be placed on an Open University website soon – that I will share as soon as I can.

8 thoughts on “saving species

  1. Good on you Hugh. Sledgehammer at the ready. Where do we start? ;o)

    Not sure I’m too happy about the eating hogs bit before you. There are plenty of morons out there who’ll try it.

  2. I was sooo cross today as I was chatting to a neighbours father out the front and apparently he has loads of hoggies in his garden but has blocked it off as they pooed everywhere. What is wrong with people??? I kindly explained that they are now a struggling species etc but don’t supposed it changed as thing. I hope he put a sign up saying to go my Cranford Park Drive so I can enjoy their company etc.

    Jayne

  3. I heard your piece re Hedgehogs the other day on Radio 4. Perhaps you overlooked the fact that badgers eat hedgehogs whenever they find them. There are far too many badgers and hedgehogs will continue to be a target until the badger population is reduced. Our hedgehogs population has reduced significanlty in the last 20 years.

    • The badger-hedgehog thing is rather more complicated than simple predation. I did mention badgers in the mix of problems hedgehogs face – and I will write something up here soon that goes into far more detail (just as soon as I finish the work on a UK hedgehog conservation strategy). At the heart of it are two key things: habitat fragmentation caused by predator avoidance and asymmetric intra-guild predation. More on those to follow!

  4. Fine and thank you. First what do you mean by asymmetric intra guild predation – badgers foxes hard winters and man are the threats? How is it that the habitat I know is well over 5sq miles the hedges are in tact, the woods are in tact, the fields are the same size, beetle banks are present and crops are managed using IPM [foxes controlled]? I am sorry habitat is not the dominant cause for decline.

  5. Have you read the Defra funded work – The Ecological Consequences of Removing Badgers from the Ecosystem it is interesting. Can you comment?

    • Dear Hugh – yes, I have read that report – and will dig up a link – I have replied by email … and now think that I might as well put the reply up here:

      Dear Hugh,

      So sorry to have not responded to your comment of 1st May – your latest one reminded me that I had not. And I have now finished the work I was doing – so am free (well, until I have to go and help my wife edit the film we are working on) to answer your questions.

      Firstly – asymetric intraguild predation … I have attached a paper from Patrick Doncaster … in sum – hedgehogs and badgers are competitors for the same food resource – mainly worms and other invertebrates. But when this food source is limited in some way, the relationship can change to a predator prey relationship. Or, as I believe (but have not tested) when predation is learnt – it might become more dominant – and this might happen as a result of scavenging road casualties.

      So, yes, badgers do eat hedgehogs, and the data we have recently got from a PhD shows there is a correlation between the presence of badgers and absence of hedgehogs. From a post-Doc study we see that hedgehogs actively avoid areas of high badger activity – and this seems to be most apparent where hedges are thin and poorly managed.

      This means that badgers not only compete with hedgehogs for food, they also predate them and prevent them from moving around the countryside.

      But – badgers and hedgehogs have co-existed since the last ice-age … it is only in the last few years that it seems as if there is a problem … which is why I think the cause is something deeper than simply the badger. And your patch – while it sounds wonderful – may well be suffering not simply from the affects of badger predation, but also habitat fragmentation caused by badgers and also by human development, restricting the free-flow of hedgehogs through the landscape.

      Secondly, I have read the Defra work – and have been lobbying the Welsh Assembly to ensure they fund a similar (actually, hopefully a rather better) study in Pembrokeshire. And while the removal of badgers may result in an increase in sightings of hedgehogs, this does not mean that the underlying cause of the problem was simply the badger.

      I have to concede that there might be a reason why the relationship between the two species has changed to be far more predatory than it ever was, but I do not know that – and am not sure how one would test for it. But I think it is important to remember that the relationship between them is complex, and there are things that we do in the wider environment that impacts upon it in unpredictable ways.

      Payment for this answer (!) is in the form of two questions …. have you read my book (A Prickly Affair)? and do you ever organise events and need a reasonably priced speaker?

      I am about to start work on my second book, which will include a chapter on badgers …. so it will be fascinating to go meeting badger fans.

      With best wishes

      Hugh

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