Lacto-free

First – thank you for the many people who took time to read through the last post and the many many comments. I was surprised at the depth of feeling and hope that I have not re-started any once forgotten problems.

Reading through what has been written, I think I have a better handle on my position. Or at least a way of expressing it:

  • No wild animals should ever be taken from the wild and kept as a pet.
  • I think that hedgehogs, of whatever species, belong in the wild.
  • Pet hedgehogs (African species, possibly hybrids, and possibly subject to 10 or 20 generations of captivity) are unable to be returned to the wild.
  • The welfare of any hedgehogs that are kept in captivity should be paramount.
  • Breeding hedgehogs for profit is likely to lead to a reduction of the quality of conditions in which hedgehogs are kept.
  • If you are going to look after a pet hedgehog then please use this position to help promote the really important issues surrounding the well-being of ‘real’ hedgehogs out in the wild.
  • ‘They are just so cute’ is NOT reason enough to keep an animal in captivity (these are not animated teddy-bears). Continue reading

A real hedgehog dilemma …

Author Daniel Allen invited me to a meeting with two pet hedgehog breeders in hope, I think, of a fight. He is writing a book about exotic pet keepers and their animals and has been on a peculiar tour of coatis, pythons, raccoons and ant-eaters in search of a bit of understanding as to what motivates the choice of these unlikely house-guests.

My position on pet hedgehogs is pretty well known. Having had a brilliantly eccentric time in Denver, Colorado at the Rocky Mountain Hedgehog Show, I was well aware of what the pet hedgehog world can generate. And I have written about the sporadic attempts by exotic pet breeders in the UK to kick-start a fad-pet craze. Continue reading

Blue Peter

I was visiting my mother this weekend and found myself browsing the bookshelf in the old playroom – and while much of the evidence of childish times has gone there was a block of books that stood out. Blue Peter Annuals from 1972 to 1980. My first book, their ninth, was a complete treat for me as a six year old. I thought the world of John Noakes and Shep.

Flicking through these Annuals I found I recognised so much – though why they insisted on putting Valerie Singleton in such odd period costumes escapes me. Blue Peter was a very important part of my childhood.

So, can you imagine the tremor of excitement when the wonderful folk at Firebird PR (who do so much to help the People’s Trust for Endangered Species) told me that Blue Peter might be interested in doing a hedgehog feature and that I might be involved?

I add the ‘mights’ as I am well aware of the slippery nature of Auntie Beeb – not everything that is promised comes to light … but the mights grew stronger and stronger. I secured some stunt hedgehogs from Hedgehog Bottom Rescue, near Reading (thanks Gill); Firebird found some willing school children and I ironed my shirt (this was getting serious).

To prime myself I watched an episode on i-player – oh my … how young …

But unfortunately the children have aged – the show is now aimed at 10 yrs + … so my wonderful duo of Mati and Pip  were too young to be part of the show.

And then last Friday it really happened. The Blue Peter team were great – the weather was toe-teasingly cold, I was very glad I pilfered my wife’s down jacket – and the presenter, Naomi Wilkinson – showed how that sort of work should be done. The interview segment was focussed on Hedgehog Street – how to make gardens hedgehog friendly and interconnected.

Then a wonderful thatcher called Kit stepped in to help Milly and Joe make a hedgehog house. Which then lead up to the finale – where we placed the hedgehog house under a big bush and I introduced Gill’s ‘stunt ‘hogs’ to the show.

photo from Hedgehog Bottom Rescue

These two hedgehogs had been in her care for a while and will be released when the weather is a little milder. We made the point that these were ‘stunt’ hogs and that hedgehogs should not be out in the day … people always complain, but I really think it is important that we seduce people with images of hedgehogs, and then, when they are drawn in, we can educate them.

As I placed the hedgehogs in front of the newly made hedgehog house I declared that, obviously, they would not go into it right away. At that, Rogan, one of the hedgehogs, took a look at me and decided to prove me wrong, by making a bee-line for the entrance tunnel and disappearing.

photo from Hedgehog Bottom Rescue

This resulted in general amazement – I was thrilled! And then, a little later, we took the back of the box and propped a night-vision camera in the opening, allowing them to film Rogan entering the hedgehog house from a different angle. What a very excellent stunt ‘hog.

I am so excited about this – the short film will be broadcast on Thursday 9th February at 1745 on CBBC, and repeated on Friday 10th February on BBC1 at 1630. I am excited because I will be on Blue Peter, obviously, but I am mainly excited because this has been a great opportunity to talk to a different audience about the importance of making your garden not just hedgehog friendly, but wildlife friendly. What is good for hedgehogs is good for so much else. And our project – run in conjunction with the PTES and the British Hedgehog Preservation SocietyHedgehog Street – is such a great way to get people and their communities involved.

It is possible, however, that the main thrill has come from this …

I now have a Blue Peter badge … something that the six-year old me, looking at the wonderful John Noakes doing derring-do, dreamt of earning.