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.

So I arrived at the strange venue, a sort of service station merged with a farm-shop, ready to defend my position – that there is no good reason to stimulate the interest in pet hedgehogs in the UK.

Daniel was already in place with Helen Gill and Louvain Greyfaulk. And they had been joined by a young woman from Cardiff, Tayer Witchell, who was there to pick up a baby hedgehog from Gill and hand over a young, furry and impossibly cute, rabbit.

Helen runs a pet shop in Cheshire – Simply Seahorses; Louvain had travelled up from Berkshire who describes herself as a house wife and hobby-breeder of pet hedgehogs. Between them all, they help run a web forum that assists in re-homing abandoned hedgehogs. And they had all descended on Birmingham for the fight arranged by Daniel.

How disappointed he must have been! I must have had a rare attack of diplomacy, and the three women were delightfully odd. And, in retrospect, I am seeing something odd in me too. I am getting older. I am (and there are some who would argue this is about time) developing a more nuanced attitude to previously straightforward black and white issues.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still some definites in this debate. I think that any time wildlife is incorporated into the ‘free market’, wildlife suffers. Wild animals must not be taken in as pets.

But what of exotic pets? When does an exotic pet stop being a ‘wild’ animal? How many generations in captivity before they are no longer wild?

Another ‘definite’ position is to do with welfare. But I am wary of getting drawn into welfare issues before I have got the ‘rights’ sorted out in my mind. Is it right to keep an animal as a pet? I would say that yes, it can be, if the animal has an enriched existence. Clearly someone who mistreats animals, whether wild or domestic, is contemptible.

You can tell I did not study philosophy, this argument is not very clear yet. But what I am getting to is the problem of pet hedgehogs in the UK. My instinct is to say this is wrong. And I base that not on the impact on the African species that have been bred into glorious array patterns and colours, but on the impact on the one species I have studied and grown to love, the Western European Hedgehog. My worry is that, should the numpties win and pet hedgehogs become a must have fad pet craze, unscrupulous folk will try selling off our hedgehogs as pets. Additionally, there is the impact on wildlife hospitals, who are in the position of not being able to release these pet hedgehogs when they are brought in, and are also not in a position of wanting to support the pet industry by putting the hogs back into the system.

But – and this is where Helen and Lou came in – there are already many people out there with pet hedgehogs. How many? No one knows. But they are there and they need the best advice as to how to look after their hedgehogs. And they need a support network so that when they get bored, they can at least have the animals cared for and re-homed. And this is what they offer through their web-forum.

Before any answers, some photos … because there were two hedgehogs in attendance, and this is where there is a clear conflict again – they are, undeniably, cute.

My conflict? I am not keen to support something that could lead to problems for our wild hedgehogs. But, there are pet hedgehogs out there that could benefit from support. And the pet hedgehogs can, and are, used to help raise awareness and fund that help wild hedgehogs. Both Helen and Lou have raised funds for wildlife carers and have spread the word about our wonderful Hedgehog Street.

The result? No fights but lots of talk. I remain on a rather wobbly fence. I would be horrified if there was a craze of pet hedgehogs, it would be disastrous for their welfare and for the wild hedgehogs too. But I would also like to see pet hedgehogs that are already there being kept well, and, when possible, being used to help promote the cause of our wild hedgehogs.

So, now I turn to you lot! What do you think? Am I being naive in not railing against pet hedgehog breeders? Am I being harsh on exotic pet keepers? Give me your thoughts and I will see if I can focus mine a little better too!

ps – I got to cuddle one too:

71 thoughts on “A real hedgehog dilemma …

  1. I’m sitting on that wobbly fence with you! I don’t like exotic animals being kept as pets (or any animals being caged) but, if it’s going to happen, education and support are vital to their well-being. The worry is that people may not realise how different pet and wild hedgehogs are and they’re not interchangable!

    • thanks marion – I am so glad that I am not alone in finding it tricky … my gut feeling is that exotic pets are not a great idea due to the impact on the wild stocks and the fact that they may not receive adequate care in this country … but well cared-for pet hedgehogs ‘seem’ really happy and could not be released back into the wild …

  2. It is a difficult one, I adore hedgehogs, the anticipation as I listen for that all important rustling sound, confirmation that they have found their way to my garden, the scratching as they battle with fleas, the sheer pleasure of watching them search for the food I leave out for them, the crunching as they eat the biscuits, my stiffled laugh watching them stand in the food as they drink the water I put out, their race across the garden when they are disturbed. They are a joy and an important part of my life – but – that’s where it ends. For me, they will always be wild and that’s as it should be. That said, if those who insist on keeping them as pets need our help, then it will be given, for the sake of the hedgehogs that have not made this choice in life.

  3. I could see a case for keeping them for slug patrol on allotments or in gardens, .. but have reservations about what would happen if they suddenly become designer breeds/inbred.

    • these ones are a very different species … and now you mention it, maybe I was not clear enough in the piece … these are hedgehogs that originated in Africa and are known by some as African Pygmy Hedgehogs … on account of them being smaller than ‘ours’. And these pets would be useless as garden pest patrollers, they are soft and need lots of warmth!

  4. People don’t necessarily get “bored” (approx 5th last para) – but their circumstances do change – they grow up, split up, live with different people, get ill, move home etc. I prefer fostering animals, but don’t always manage it. And when I do, it certainly helps to have the best advice available, which is invariably going to be a pot pourri of info not just one approach.

    I think your argument is much easier for the media (and anyone tempted by hedgehog care who isn’t perhaps eccentric enough?!) if you continue to be against the pet hedgehog trade, but that’s not to say you can’t have a public line & a resigned friendship for those who are wee beastie in cage fans. And if people don’t get the philosophical problem, which they might not have anyway, just keep stressing the smell and poo from a caged hedgehog. It’s a good battle-weapon parents will be able to retreat behind even when up against concerted pester power. Good luck. nicola http://homemadekids.wordpress.com & http://aroundbritainnoplane.blogspot.com

    • thanks Nicola – I have to say that I tend to do this already – hence the reason that the pet owners meeting me were expecting a far more prickly encounter … I am certainly opposed to the trade … it is how best to look after the ones that are there … and being pragmatic enough to know that the trade will continue.

  5. 1) It might be helpful to avoid the topic becoming too ‘generic’. It you want to talk about the population of exotic pets, that is much wider than the hedgehog question, and needs to be addressed separately, not least because there will be disagreement about what counts as exotic. So to the question of hedgehogs as pets.

    2) I would avoid the concept of ‘rights’ at this stage, as I think that is also fraught; rights compete, whereas fundamental needs do not in quite the same way. If hedgehogs somehow threatened humanity’s existence, or even survival within a particular location, I would not be overly concerned at controlling/culling their population.

    3) Do hedgehogs ‘need’ us? One that became sick through natural causes should perhaps be left alone; that is just nature taking its course.

    4) If hedgehogs become sick or hurt, or their numbers decline because of human factors (eg we damage their habitat / micro-ecosystem, or hit one with a vehicle), then we have a responsibility to put that right, which may include taking one or several temporarily into care.

    5) Do hedgehogs ‘need’ us to have them as pets? Absolutely not.

    6) Do they get to choose whether they stay with us as pets or leave of their own accord. I doubt a pet owner would allow them that decision.

    7) Does taking a wild one as a pet curtail its freedom to go its own hedgehog way? Yes. In which case, I would say, leave it alone.

    8) What about a hedgehog born into captivity – should it be released? Arguably, yes, if it can get the parenting it needs, and it is released into an appropriate environment.

    9) Species kept as pets develop, over generations, less adaptability and robustness in the non-pharmaceutically and vet-populated environment – they become more vulnerable, and more dependent on humans to keep the species going. Is this a good thing?

    10) Does any human ‘need’ a hedgehog as a pet? Absolutely not. The human is exercising a desire / appetite, personal wish. A human’s fundamental needs to experience pleasure, positive, warm feelings (or love), to feel significant, or powerful, to make relationship, to nurture etc ‘could’ be met by looking after a hedgehog, but I doubt that having a pet hedgehog is ever likely to be the only way of experiencing these things, even for a human with the most debased and dreadful personal circumstances.

    11) I don’t think a hedgehog should be kept as a pet purely for the satisfaction of a human – no animal should be ‘used’ in that way. There must be quality of life them as well, and we have to dig deep philosophically to establish what counts as quality of life for hedgehogs born into different settings. My basic starting point is response-ability towards other species, a duty of care, rather than an unquestioned right to ownership or exploitation that smacks of selfishness and lazy thinking.

    12) Hedgehog ‘ownership’ (ouch, I hate that concept), is, sadly, a reality. Some have already decided it’s okay for a human to control a hedgehog’s life, and have them as pets. It’s now a given. So yes, such people should be given advice on what a hedgehog’s needs are for a good quality of life, including ideas on how to re-integrate them into the wild, even ones born into captivity, and scientific and ethical criteria to consider if they are thinking about making a wild one into a pet. I would want to encourage them to think of themselves not as owners with rights, but stewards, who may have hedgehogs temporarily in their care.

    • fantastic to get someone clever to unpick my ramblings … though I need to stress as I obviously did not enough in the blog – the hedgehogs in question are African hedgehogs bred and kept as pets … not wild ones taken into captivity. Thanks Alex.

      • … in which case, the dialogue needs to be even less generic than ‘hedgehogs’, and just about African hedgehogs.

        I would say, if they are endangered, then a responsible hedgehog husbandry setting could take steps to protect and breed in captivity, with a view to re-populating the African hedgehogs’ natural environment (assuming steps were also taken to conserve that environment). Otherwise, from the species’ (African hedgehogs’) perspective, there is no obvious reason to perpetuate the species in captivity or as pets (which is a specialised form of captivity).

        For those already living as pets, let them continue to live there, and let’s educate their human stewards. But perhaps ban breeding from pets, and the selling of African hedgehogs and also ban the acquisition of new pets from Africa. Then the number of African hedgehogs in pet-hood (could that be a word?) would eventually decline, and African hedgehogs could be left alone to do their thing in Africa.

        My point is that, as best we can, the ethical starting point would be to consider African hedgehogs not only as individuals, but as a species. What would best promote their welfare as a species, and minimise harm to them? A disingenuous answer could be ‘well, I’m not harming just this one little cutesy-wutesy hedgehog of mine, and it’s having the best life possible’ (which cannot not just be unilaterally assumed by an uninformed and shallow human ‘owner’ anyway). But the individual pet ‘owner’ has to be able to answer two questions – 1) Do you know for sure that there is no environment for this individual hedgehog better than the one you are offering? (And if there is a better environment, what steps are you going to take to get the hedgehog there?) 2) Do you know the impact on the species if hundreds, thousands, or more people all took the view that they only had one African hedgehog each, and therefore it wouldn’t make any difference to the species?

        One of the reasons we are in a mess ecologically is that individuals forget about their connectedness, and about the cumulative impact of individuals not thinking about the cumulative impact of individual actions.

  6. I see history repeating itself. When the Ninja Turtle film came out all the kids wanted turtles as pets. So the Red Eared Terrapins poured in by their thousands for the little darlings to abuse and eventually dump in UK waterways and ponds where they murder all our native wildlife. The question is “Is it legal to import them?” The answer is “yes” so that’s that!

    All love


    • I think that there is no importing of wild African hedgehogs … though I would like that clarified … these ones are coming from breeders … but how long since they were wild I do not know.

      • They have been bred in the US for about 30 years now; I don’t know about the UK. That is *many* generations; they commonly live five to ten years. I’ve had African hedgies (one at a time) since 1991 and I doubt they will become a fad though there was a little boost when Nintendo came out with Sonic. Their care requirements are exacting and non-trivial, they are prickly (duh), they can bite, and they are expensive.

        Someone else said caged hedgies smell; actually, not when cared for correctly. They happily choose one part of their area to potty in and it’s easy to clean that several times a day to keep everything fresh for them (and us). They need a solid-surface running wheel and they do poop and pee in that; it must be washed daily or it and the hedgehog will quickly become disgusting. Easily sorted if you’re committed to them and African hedgies even seem to enjoy a warm-water swim and toothbrush scrub. 🙂

        We don’t keep our hedgehog in a tiny area; he’s got a 3′ x 5′ habitat (which for a creature his size – 425 grams – is a lot of room; proportionally, it’s about 1500 sq ft) and almost every evening, we play with him until he potties and then we let him run around his room, which is 10′ x 12′ and has lots of hedgie-appropriate toys, hidden snacks, and climbing/resting places. We change these around quite often.

        Thorn’s life is not much like what it would have been in Africa, but why be so romantic? None of his ancestors for ten or more generations have lived in Africa, and many of them have had much poorer lives than him (this would be like me pining for the potato fields of southern Poland, and it’s only three generations removed from me! I have no desire to go there or to live that life; why should I imagine that Africa would be better for Thorn?)

        I don’t know why people get freaked out over domestic-bred hedgies being kept as pets when they themselves live with dogs or cats. Keeping UK wild hedgies as pets is CLEARLY wrong, and turning African hedgies loose in the UK or the US will result in their relatively quick deaths and is therefore also easily wrong, but keeping a domestic animal in captivity seems OK to me if you do it with care for the living creature. Rats? Snakes? Birds? Are you guys worried about them too? (It’s fine by me and not inconsistent if you are, but if you’re not, why not?)

        I don’t want to fight either and care very much about the plight of wild hedgies everywhere. Living with a delightful calm friendly one is a pleasure.

        • I agree with you, Jaz, that the current APHs in the pet trade can no longer be returned to the wild. Where would they find their pigloos and wheels? Many prefer wheels to running free in a room. And my little relinquishment, Puck, bounces up and down on his hind legs to be picked up. Then, realizing he might have to take some medicine goes, “WAIT!! Put me down!”

          The concern from my perspective as an APH rescue site is that our mortality data base shows the average life span of 3 years 7 months and dropping due to recessive and other genetic traits. It’s possible that these issues were bred in while trying to get other desirable characteristics such as pretty colors or calm temperament. We estimate that one in ten captive APHs get Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome and strikes between age 1 and 2.5. It is possible that a stressor is required to activate the recessive gene so that even a higher percentage than we think may actually carry the gene.

          Since the captive pet trade is restricted by the fact that new importation is illegal (here at least) and people generally don’t want wild ones, but rather they want designer pintos and albinos, this can only get worse. This will get worse especially if conscientious breeders realize their project is doomed by the presence of Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome and the only breeders left are the traffickers/hoarders or unscrupulous ones. This is worrisome to me having seen that at its ugliest.

          A number of relinquishments were left with me as “healthy” individuals when they had cancer or some other problem and the person who bought the little being didn’t want the expense. Sometimes all I could do for them is administer pain meds, metacam and hold them.

          I can talk the rhetoric of not having APHs in the pet trade, but know that they are here and cannot be returned. And I truly do love the beautiful denizens that live here.

  7. We have a registered charity all ready set up for the intake and care of african pygmy hedgehogs. this group has huge support and this year will be attending various events throughout the country to help promote proper care and increase awareness of hogs and us as an organisation.
    we already have shows arranged around the country at various times throughout the year which raise money for the national exotic hedgehog rescue service.
    if you would like to contact us for more information you can do so through our website at http://www.homelesshogs.com
    through our email exotichedgehogrescue@hotmail.co.uk
    or through our forum http://hedgehogrescue.forumotion.co.uk/
    We are well aware of helen gill and louvain greyfaulk and can give you more information on them if required.
    our next show is 3rd march, i believe one of our team has contact hugh warwick a number of times about possibly attending one of these shows. she is also a carer of wild hogs.
    I hope that we here from you soon

    • are these the shows where you dress hedgehogs up in stupid costumes and make them race? .I really don’t think i need to say anymore than that. except i bought some tunnels with wire sticking out and houses which collapse and have tacs sticking out of them. i would stay clear people.

    • why have you not left a link for the PHUK forum Faith? surely you and your cronies need all the help and support you can get…

      • Google ‘Pygmy Hogs UK’ and you will get it.
        Faith doesn’t need her ‘cronies’ as you crudely put it – she has an army of experienced and rational APH owners behind her.

  8. My understanding is that here in the US the last imported (legally) African hedgehog was about the mid 1990s. This is a long time in captivity. I agree that they should never have been taken from the wild. But someone did. And then there’s the one that refused to leave the caregivers hoodie when she returned from the Middle East after crawling in with her at night just a few years ago.

    In my care are 8 hedgehogs that came from an animal trafficking/hoarding seizure (most of them with some level of anxiety disorder; can you imagine making pets of these?) One that some guy bought for his girlfriend because she said she thought they were cute but didn’t want one really and didn’t say she did. One that lost an eye from scratching and vet costs were too great Finally, a darling little guy who apparently has the irritating habit of being nocturnal and “running in his wheel all night.”

    Most that come in I rehome. The little guy that just came in that runs all night has seen too many homes already and isn’t going anywhere. My darling crazies from the seizure aren’t going anywhere.

    You’re right! The line between hoping the pet trade will go away and leaving these little ones to suffer is very fine. They are here and they seem here to stay, although I’ve seen a huge drop in the number of folks trying to be professional small-time breeders of them (but I only live in one part of the country). But there is still the issue of where did 600 hedgehogs come from to be seized, starved and dehydrated in the clutches of an animal trafficker?

    More than anything I wish we could stop that treatment of these wee beings. They are beautiful, darling, full of personality and never deserved what they are getting.

    • thanks Vicki, that was my understanding too, that the import was banned when the link with ‘hoof’ and mouth disease was discovered. I am not sure where all the ones in the UK are from – the folk I met talked of them coming in from Europe, but prior to that the US … there might still be an illegal trade though … anyone want to give me some money to go and investigate it??

      • I wish I could give you money to go investigate. I know that some folks were massively exporting all over the world from the US for a while. Whether or not that has caught on in Europe, I don’t know. Oh sure I do. It caught on in Europe if there is money to be made. We humans do what we do. The little 600 that I helped care for (maternity ward, hospital, general population) were probably headed all over the world since the trafficker was international. Most non-traditional mammals, reptiles and amphibians were wild caught, but the hedgehogs had the bizarre little pinto markings of overbred captives. It truly would be interesting to know how much of an illegal trade is going on when people really want the pinto colored ones, or the albino ones or the — oh who knows what other odd shade of green.

  9. The answer for me is no, not really, except in exceptional circumstances, say where someone has rescued a creature and reared it from babyhood and developed a deep bond, and the little one is very happy, calm and safe, has the right environment and lives life first as a hedgehog and not as a ‘cute pet’. Also that the little creature is not subjected to stupid levels of noise is houses by people who like their rock music loud, or TV loud or any other insensitive behaviour that, unbeknown to them, because they’re stupid, is causing untold stress to their little woodland housemate.

    Personally, as a cat-lover and cat rescuer, I believe that any owner of any pet ought to be registered. All cat-owners, all dog-owners and all anything-else owners. Then all registered owners ought to have one organisation which is the over-seeing body, which issues advice, has affiliations with sister organisations, which educates and which runs campaigns against certain practices, which don’t need listing, we know what they are. And most importantly insists on registered members neutering their cats and dogs and advocates taking in animals from sanctuaries rather than breeders or pet shops.

    I suppose I believe more that hedgehogs ought not to be kept as pets. They are tiny creatures more suited to a natural woodland life. Cats are larger, there are millions of unwanted animals who need looking after and the psychological difference it makes to human lives to look after a cat or dog lovingly is enormous. I suppose if a hedgehog owner were registered, along with everyone else, then it would be acceptable. But I would want rules and regulations and best practice for every type of pet-keeping scenario.

    I would prefer people to ‘look after’ animals rather than ‘own’ them. I would prefer pet shops to just sell food and accessories, rather than living creatures. I would prefer nobody to take in a creature in whom they have only a passing interest. I would prefer pets not to be bought for children.

    But – this is the real world. So I think that rather than express an opinion about whether or not hedgehogs ought to be kept as pets, I’d prefer everybody to campaign for compulsory registration of all pet-owners, as a starting point. Perhaps it would be better to start soft and go for an overarching organisation with different sections where people register voluntarily, until it reaches a point where people assume they will register and surprised when someone has not registered. The cost of registration must be very small, something like £10 a year or £5 if you’re on benefits. The low registration fee is because the most important aspect is the educational. This country is half-weird and half-wonderful with animals, but the weird 50% is too distressing for words.

    The organisation ought to become a charity and have a big presence on the internet. It ought to fundraise for its upkeep and it must become the default organisation that everybody turns to for advice on anything to do with keeping pets, and the one central point of contact for any lost and found pets and the hub where all other websites link to.

    That’s what I want, in short (not)!

    xx GREAT WORK HUGH WARWICK – about time you got an MBE for all your work, seriously.

  10. What a well balanced and insightful piece.
    I’m not sure what Faith Morgan means by “We are well aware of helen gill and louvain greyfaulk and can give you more information on them if required.” But I am well aware of Faith Morgan and can certainly give you more information on her if required!

  11. In response to the comment left by Faith Morgan I would like to set the record straight – there was a disagreement between us with regards to the ethics of their rescue and also the forum that was hosting their rescue site at the time. This led to me being called a liar and a thief and a host of rude and bullying emails which are still stored on my computer and not to mention SMS phone messages that were sent to my home phone number where my family listened to them.

    Other people forwarded emails that had been sent to them from their official rescue email address that were shocking in their content, never have I seen such a case of bullying and foul language used from an official email address.

    The funds I raised were not passed over to their rescue as despite being given authority to purchase promotional material they were unwilling to pay for it and left me out of pocket to the tune of several hundred pounds and I was advised that I could pursue this matter in the Small Claims Court – the promotional logo bugs and bookmarks and a small number of hand made handbags and 2 pieces of glasswork were packed up and they were informed they could send a courier to collect them at their cost – they are still sat here waiting for collection.
    Sometimes, “founder” breeders take on the attitude that nobody else can breed as well as them and indeed have no rights to do so and treat people with contempt rather than helping them with sound advice.

    Who indeed put these expert breeders forward to become in their words ” Recommended Breeders” – the answer themselves – hardly ethical in itself.

    I have purchased hoglets from various breeders and have found that in some cases, the quality of stock from the recommended breeders is very poor – balls of huffiness and poor quality, arched backs which indicates a nutritional defect from being fed a poor diet – having the knowledge means that it should be put into practice and not ignored.

    If Faith feels that her requests for help have been ignored then perhaps she needs to look at her own responses when people have asked for her help – just because we are trying to make a small difference and have been approached to take part in some interviews, shows our commitment and dedication to the cause of African Pygmy Hedgehogs.

    Slander and Libel are very serious offences and this should be remembered – if you have a problem with me Faith you know where I am, you have had plenty of time to address any problems or issues but instead you would rather use an open forum to try and tarnish my name, my forum and my rescue – how old are you??

    How sad that you have chosen to once again use your keyboard to hide behind and try to spoil an honest and open debate – people in glass houses should not throw stones.

    If anybody wishes to ask anything about myself and the reasons why a different rescue was set up then please feel free – I have nothing to hide and have done nothing wrong.

    • Thanks for the massive wall of text that completely detracts from the topic at hand.

      Back on topic: I think one of the key points people commonly dont seem to understand and base their opinions on is that african pygmy hedgehogs aren’t just a domesticated African hog that people have imported they are a hybrid of two species of hog that wouldn’t have occured in the wild.
      Not sure if you saw the bbc article not so long ago where they offered imo a pretty negative viewpoint on aph, they were quoting vets as saying they shouldn’t be kept as pets while they were handling wild hedgies and clearly referring to them while the presenter was implying that they were referring to the aph. I totally agree, wild animals are wild and should be kept that way.
      I’m not a breeder myself, I do have 2 aph of my own, 1 a rescue and 1 that i’ve purchased myself they are lovely animals, just not for everyone…. People should do their homework.
      For me i’m against a ‘fad / craze’ for these animals but I dont have a problem with pets being bred and sold responsibly.

      Nice to read an article that promotes thought as opposed to being heavily biased one way or the other.

      • “Thanks for the massive wall of text that completely detracts from the topic at hand.”
        I agree, it does detract from the topic, but helen wasn’t the one who started the mud slinging. she has the right to stand up for herself.

  12. I went to the ‘Precious Babies’ website of Louvain Greyfaulk who breeds hedgehogs for pets – http://preciousbabies.weebly.com . It is interesting to note some of the language …

    1) “It is important to remember that unlike cats and dogs, hedgehogs have not been domesticated very long and they can still exhibit a lot of ‘wild’ behaviour. For this reason, fearfulness of new things is not surprising.” My conclusion is that even Ms Greyfaulk acknowledges that these animals are not domestic, or pet-like when they are born, but have to be entrained into such behaviour; indeed, they are likely to be initially fearful of humans and the domestic environment. That does not sit well with me. What aspects of a hedgehog’s nature have to be suppressed, controlled or conditioned in order for them to fit human requirements?

    2) “To get the full benefit of owning a hedgehog …” First, I do not believe that a hedgehog is here for any human’s ‘benefit’ – and what if the perceived benefit runs out of shelf life? And the language of ‘ownership’ can, I suspect, lead to a human-centric view of how one should or could treat a hedgehog.

    While Ms Greyfaulk’s site also indicates an awareness that the hedgehog’s perspective should be considered with respect, my concerns are not completely put to rest.

    • I find it disgusting that someone is using this thread to “score points”, this is not what the meeting was about at all, and if you want to start a debate about who has done what to whom i suggest you take it somewhere else.

      We are all hedgehog lovers and the main concern of ALL the rescues is to provide care for hedgehogs who can no longer remain in their current homes for one reason or another. there is no reason to turn this into a popularity contest, the whole point of this article is to raise awareness about APH and their care, not a slinging match.

  13. I have had dealings with Faith Morgan and her friends and its a experience that put me off having anything to do with her, her forums and websites that she uses or is anything to do with! I would not recommend and avoid. I have also know Lou for the same amount of time and can only say you will not find anyone else more passionate and knowledgable about the care of Pygmy Hedgehogs.
    They are a fantastic and precious animal. I am glad there is people like Lou and Helen out there looking out for Hedgies !

  14. Fabulous article! very informative and enlightening. Personally I think its wonderful to see so many different views and opinons, at the end of the day APH are not for everyone, and not everyone understands the amount of care and requirement which seems to always go back to the assumption that people keep wild british hedgehogs, (its always funny when you explain the origins though)

    I am quite shocked to read through the comments and see that Faith Morgan is at it again. Whatever it is you have to say about Lou and Helen then by all means enlighten us! I have known Lou for a while and have never met such an honest and dedicated lady who turned her full love and attention to breeding such wonderful hedgehogs, which I have met on several ocassions!. I may not have met Helen but I know how dedicated she is to her animals and both of these women are always ready to support and advise on any situation regarding the hogs I am simply appaulled that you people are still trying to drag them down.

    I have been on the recieving end of Faith and her fellow pygmy hog UK crew and they are an evil vicious bunch, a keyboard warrior is nothing short of a coward. She is intimidating and a bully. You should be ashamed of yourself for condemning such wonderful honest people.

  15. what an interesting post and lively set of responses. As a Toad-person, i find myself caught in a similar dilemma to Hugh about ownership, respect and freedom for non-human cousins. Good points here to read and think about, and muttering in the background through all of it for me was “slow loris” as a sad exemplar of what the “fad-pet” trade can mean for a species

  16. I’m all for debate, but a lot of these comments seem to be nothing short of character assasination or attempts to derail the thread with information that should be kept to more private channels…. ie not here.

    @Hugh. Think the website Faith mentioned regarding the rescue was here: http://www.homelesshogs.co.uk/

    • Dear John – thank you – yes, it has become a little heated in places – was not aware that there was such a strong sense of upset in that world … but there are also some really good points being made as well, which is the reason I posted the piece in the first place! Thank you for the link – that one works – not sure why the other didn’t, even when I typed it in.

      • As I said i’m all for debates, even heated debates at times can be constructive, however it just seems like some people have lost sight of the actual discussion at hand and are trying to turn this into a personal attack.

        At the end of the day there are hedgehogs in both the wild and the domestic environment that need the support of the people who read these forums / blogs. Might be better for people to stop flaming Faith, step back a second and focus on whats actually important.

        @Hugh. I think it was a .co.uk / .com misstype, would be good to meet you at the 3rd of march show if your not busy / are able to make it!

  17. I have an APH here that was going to be thrown out into the wild. I sat on the fence for a while but having read several breeder pages who paint APH hogs as the next best pet I am absolutely against it. I think the distinction between APH and our wild ones should be kept clear and APH hogs should not be used to support our wild ones. They have the same nocturnal sleep patterns and therefore it’s unfair to parade them publically, especially to support our native hogs. I did see a couple of APH hogs at a show last year and they were
    terrified and very stressed, not that the kids or adults noticed. The APH’s could become the next Rabbit fad, and rabbits are not good pets and are often mis-treated through lack of education from breders, pet shops etc. They are cute without a doubt but are a very difficult “pet” to keep.

  18. “I have purchased hoglets from various breeders and have found that in some cases, the quality of stock from the recommended breeders is very poor – balls of huffiness and poor quality, arched backs which indicates a nutritional defect from being fed a poor diet – having the knowledge means that it should be put into practice and not ignored.”

    The “quality of STOCK”??????????

    What a horrible sentence to read.

    • I think that the language we use gives clues to the deeper structure of our thinking. I too was bothered by the phrase ‘quality of stock’, for the same reasons I was concerned about talking about ‘owners’, and the ‘benefit’ (to the human) of keeping a hedgehog.

      Drawing attention to the language is useful, because in this case, it shows possibly a consumer-led relationship to the hedgehog world, as distinct from a conservation-led relationship.

    • As a breeder the most used term is brood stock – no offense intended – Hugh has been made an offer to come and visit me and my herd at any time and have the opportunity to meet not only my APH but also my Desert Hogs and Tenrecs – an open invitation to anybody who is in the Cheshire area

  19. Hi there
    First really great read!
    I am a hedgehog owner and I think that it’s ok as long as you’re fully a wear of the love and work that goes into having one, if you think about it all animals were wild at one point, so if we say it’s right to have dogs and cats then why not a hedgehog or any other animal? As long as the animal is happy and well looked after without it being dangerous to others or its self I can’t see the problem.
    As for what has been said by faith I can only give my opinion of what kind of breeder Lou is and that’s amazing!!!! I had my girl hedgehog off her last year and she the best! I wouldn’t want to be without her! She so friendly and outgoing from the moment I got her and that’s down to Lou. Lou’s always there for me if I need advice or help with her in anyway, which is a great support to me and the fact alone that she keeps in touch with the homes her babies go to should speak volumes about how much she cares about them. Lou’s a lovely person who doesn’t deserve her Name being dragged through the mud! I think if people have a problem with who your meeting with, that they should not be voicing there opinions through this comment section as that is to only bring on even more ill feelings, shows themselves up and distracts from your arterial! Which I think is a shame 🙁

  20. i really can’t see why a certain person on here has felt the need to try and defame people. this really isnt what it is about. who cares who has fallen out with who, our main concern is the hedgehogs, and that counts for everyone on here, despite how you feel about each other. it is petty and juvenile, find somewhere else to air your dirty laundry!

  21. Great blog entry Hugh, this is the “prickly debate” I was hoping for on Saturday!

    On a more serious note, my feeling is that continued dialogue and debate about pet hedgehogs is much needed. It can only benefit the welfare of all hedgehogs in the UK.

    The terminology isn’t quite as ghastly as it seems. “Quality of stock” is used by breeders of many animals, including mice and rats. I’ve been loaned a stud mouse to exhibit in a show next weekend; it’s not a pet, it’s one of the breeders stock. So the term is not about selling, more the appearance, health and behaviour of individual animals.

  22. @John Macleod i think you will find it was faith who started this, helen has stood up for herself and rightly so, and lou has kept a dignified silence. Maybe you should take a page out of her book. So much good can come out of this, and yet some people have decided they’d rather dig up old bones.

    • The only derogatory comments and bad mouthing seems very one sided thus far and from more than one person.

      For the record i’ve said nothing bad nor insulted any of you all i’m guilty of is trying to stop people turning this into a flaming session and trying to get peoples focus away from publicly bad mouthing each other… so sorry i’ll keep quiet in future.. Please carry on.

      @Hugh apologies for cluttering up your articles comments sections with poor attempts at calming a situation down.

      • i do not know any of the posters who have made “derogatory comments” regarding faith morgan. we can only excuse them for showing how passionately they feel about helen and lou’s ethics, and their willingness to stand up for them. i do, however, know lou and helen personally and any attempt to question their ethics is frankly laughable.
        i agree with you john, we need to stop this from turning into a flaming session, it detracts from the true topic at hand. i think we should all now forget what this has become and return to the real, important matter we have come here to learn and discuss, the welfare of our hedgehogs.

  23. Great blog entry Hugh, this is the “prickly debate” I was hoping for on Saturday!

    On a more serious note, my feeling is that continued dialogue and debate about pet hedgehogs is much needed. It can only benefit the welfare of all hedgehogs in the UK. For those who don’t know Helen and Lou, I can assure you they are ethical breeders and responsible owners who screen buyers and keep in touch with owners of their herd. I have yet to meet Faith or John, but will be happy to do so.

    The terminology isn’t quite as ghastly as it seems. “Quality of stock” is used by breeders of many animals, including mice and rats. I’ve been loaned a stud mouse to exhibit in a show next weekend; it’s not a pet, it’s one of the breeders stock. The term is not about selling, more the appearance, health and behaviour of animals.

    Back to topic, what’s your opinion of APH (African hedgehog) pet ownership? Has Hugh mellowed with age? Does anyone totally disagree with APH ownership?

    Dr Daniel Allen, http://www.drdanallen.com/animal-obsessions

  24. oh dear im sorry to have caused such a stir on your topic hugh it really was not my intention.
    with regards to my comment about knowing louvain and helen, it was merely meant that for anyone who wants to know of them as breeders i can veryify that they do have good standards and being registrar for the ukaph registry i can give information about their hogs, the lineage and the general bits of info that come with breeding, for example any illnesses ect.
    for some reason i yet again seem to be under fire when yet again i havent done or said anything to cause offence.
    i really am too old to get into petty squables.
    my only interest is the hogs and promoting the correct care of them along with the rescue and making that a success. as with any animal there needs to be somewhere safe and reliable to take in any hogs that find themselves needing a home.
    so far we have had great success and we continue to grow every day thanks to the support of a lot of people.
    im sorry about the web address i was on my phone and mistyped, it is indeed, http://www.homelesshogs.co.uk
    also i could have added the pygmyhogsuk forum which has been mentioned somewhere above. i do personally use that forum on a regular basis.
    the link for that is

    • faith, i do not know you personally, and i will only speak as i find, but perhaps seeing as you have fallen out with fellow hedgehog breeders/owners before the way your first post was phrased did come across as quite provocative. i am sorry for any comments i for one have made about you starting an argument if this was not your intention.

      however, retracting my comment about people passionately supporting lou and helen, i have re-read the comments and i would like to add that in hindsight it appears the majority of the posts making “derogatory” comments about faith have come from people who actually make no reference to lou and helen, and appear to have strong negative views about faith only.

      i am glad you have come on and made your peace faith so we can move on from this.

      • as ive already said i didnt come on here to cause any arguments.
        i cannot comment and dont really want to about the comments made about me as they havent given their real names and so i dont know who they are and im not sure how you can say they are not “passionately supporting helen and lou” unless you know who they are.
        i wont be commenting on any posts now as i really dont have the time to get involved in more mud slinging.

  25. iv sat quietly and read all comments, as a follower and fan of you, i know hugh’s position after reading prickly affair, and i know that these ladies must of made some sort of impression on you, for such an un-biased account, but your one comment miss Morgan concerns me that you can provide information on mrs Gill, and mrs Greyfaulks lineage, surely thats un-ethical….isnt it down to them to give, if asked???

    • the purpose of the registry is to track lineage and to make sure people are aware of what hedgehogs they are buying. most people who contact us are breeders who want to make sure they are not buying a related hedgehog.
      we are also there to inform peope if an illness shows up in a certain lineage to make sure people are aware of potential problems and to advice against the continued breeding of that line.
      people who register are fully aware that this information is available and although yes they should give the lineage themselves when asked, sometimes people like to double check that its correct or just ask us before contacting a breeder.
      no personal information is given out so im not sure why you believe this to be unethical.

      • Although I agree that it is imperative that the hogs welfare is number 1 priority, surely due to the fact you have fallen out with so many people Faith, you’re more likely to give a biased opinion as to whether someone should purchase a hog from specific people or not. Should you not also get the permission of the breeders/owners before passing on personal information about their hog and their lineage? Is this not data protection?

        And in response to a point you made above about not being able to comment because people aren’t using their real names, this is because people are fully aware that if they use their real names you will bad mouth them, ban them from your forums, make registration difficult and tell lies about them. Just because you have personal issues with someone doesn’t mean hog welfare should suffer because of it. It appears to be ‘your way or no way’. Maybe me hiding behind a username makes me a coward, but it’s purely because I know what you would attempt to do if you know who I am.

        I agree with the registry as it is a way of ensuring hogs aren’t inbred
        /overbred/unhealthy, but at the end of the day this is something you have set up, it is not a legal registry, it is not governed by anyone but you and that makes me uneasy due to the amount of people you have caused problems for.

        Another issue I have is with your so called recommended breeders list. Who are you to say who should and shouldn’t be a recommended breeder? The only people you recommend are yourselves (admin of PHUK) and your friends. If you fall out with someone you decide they can’t be in your gang and decide they’re no longer a recommended breeder. Recommended by who? The self appointed leader of the Hedgehogs???? Just because you fall out with someone doesn’t mean they are no longer an ethical breeder, it just means you’ve had a disagreement for whatever reason. Maybe it’s time you grew up a little, remembered that this is about Hedgehog welfare and isn’t about power and supremacy. You hold your registry and recommended breeders list over peoples heads to keep them in line with you and your ideas so people will not actually tell you what they think as they know what the consequences would be. It’s about time you started using your knowledge to help and educate, rather than using it to wield power. and have a hold over people.

      • as everyone who registers knows how the registry works and i am not giving any personal information out then no it is not a confidentiality issue.
        as for the recommended breeders list, you are wrong it is not my list. yes i did set it up so that people had a basis of where to start when looking for an ethical breeder. at the beginning of the list it clearly states that it is a “recommended list” not a “we think you should only go to these people” list. it is also in the information that there are other ethical breeders around that have either decided not to join the list or dont know about it.
        there is also a committee that approve the breeders for the list, this is not down to just me. the committee comprises of people who breed and some that dont. anyone applying for the list must have 3 recommendations from people who have purchased a hoglet from them. once these are recieved it then goes to the committee for approval or a very good reason why they should not be included.
        as for only having moderators of phuk on there, thats nonsense as there are currently no moderators of phuk on the list.
        As for only being my friends on the list again nonsense, there are 3 or 4 people on the list who i would call friends, only 2 of who are close friends.
        weve recently had new people apply to be added, 1 has been added this week and there is another due to be added as soon as we have all thier contact information. one of them i dont even know.
        as for falling out with people and making registration difficult. well i dont know whos said what to you but this is utter rubbish. i have no problems registering anyones hogs and the registry is kept strictly professional. there are 2 of us that run the registry at the moment, this is soon to become 4, 1 of whom is not a breeder. there have been no refusals of difficulties in registering anyones hogs no matter who they are and never will be.
        as for being my registry that i set up, well you have it partly right. yes i did set it up with the help of another person who stopped keeping hogs soon after setting up and so i took it on alone. this was set up in conjunction with the US registry and still runs alongside that. i also do all the european registrations. all of which i do for free, on my own time which takes hours everyday.
        when people come to us for a recommendation or lineage or whatever, we only ever give an unbiased reply.
        information is normally whether they have inbred hogs, over bred hogs or illnesses in the lines. there is no reason for me or the other registrar to say anything else. if the person is an ethical breeder then thats what they will be told.
        i havent bad mouthed anyone. as far as im aware noone has been banned from any forums and as for phuk ive never had the power to ban people as a moderator.
        as for the rescue forum everyone is welcome.

      • Apologies for not replying sooner, I’ve been having internet connection issues.
        I just wanted to verify a couple of the comments you made in response to my comments.
        Recommended Breeders List – You and your bunch of friend’s set up and manage the list. You all have your names on there, so yes it is your list. You have removed people from this list, not because they are not ethical breeders, but because you have fallen out with them and decided you no longer wanted them on your list. I believe due to your attitude someone called you a ‘witch’, to which your response was to strike them off and your husband’s response was to go onto a public forum and call them a ‘C U Next Tuesday’. Very mature way of handling things. As the rest of the hedgehog community do not know who applies to go on your list we will never know who you are turning down and why. Several of the breeders on there are your friends and have at one time or another been involved with your forum. That was until there was an argument and several of them left wasn’t it? You don’t seem to hold onto people on there very long.
        As for not banning people, you only have to visit the forum, read through the threads and find posts where it now states ‘banned member’, so yes, people do get banned on there. The internet is a wonderful thing. Nothing really stays secret anymore, and I have found out all sorts of things just from reading other forums, and yours as well. You accuse people of neglect, stealing, lying, ‘stealing’ your design ‘ideas’ (didn’t realise you were the only one able to make pouches and liners and purchase from manufacturers, lucky you holding the copyright to the designs AND materials), slag people off, send abusive and offensive e-mails. Yes I have seen them, yes they exist.
        On another issue for someone that loves hedgehogs so much you would think that when selling your overinflated priced vivs you would at least make sure they were safe. I have seen several pictures on forums where the vivs have nails sticking into the viv, such huge gaps in the doors that hogs can get their legs caught, splinters sticking out of hides, and pouches that have so many loose threads on them that hogs can get limbs caught in them. You would think that you would ensure that hogs couldn’t be injured by them.
        I personally don’t think you should be running a registry and deciding who can be a recommended breeder. You are quite clearly biased and unless you’re in Faith’s gang, it’s tough luck. Maybe as the registry takes you so many hours a day to run you should hand it over to people who are open minded and concentrate on making sure the goods you sell are of a decent quality. Oh, you can’t can you, you’re ‘Queen of the APH’.

  26. Before I go anywhere else I have to say I know both factions in the APH world. All those involved are committed to the animals and both rescues are doing valuable jobs for the poor little lumps that are mistreated, unwanted and dumped. This public infighting though really does not help their cause nor does it help the animals.

    @Daniel, I’m aware you are promoting your upcoming book but encouraging fights, jokingly or not, between wild rescues and APH rescues is really not on. The subject of animal rescue, particularly in the case of wildlife and exoctics is far from an exact science, even most vets don’t know much about them.

    We all have our methods and the concensus on treatment is growing all the time but there are differences. Turning those differences into arguments by ill chosen comments helps nobody, especially the animals.


    Thank you for your balance, this post needs it.

    African Pygmy hogs are not a pure breed African hog. They couldn’t be released even in Africa.

    They are the descendants of two African species – Atelerix Albiventris and Atelerix Algirus, as such they don’t exist in their own right anywhere in the wild.

    In the USA where this all started they have an inbred illness known as WHS (Wobbly Hog Syndrome) which has no cure. The UK population is currently free of this as any with problems are being removed from the breeding pool. However, as with any money making exercise there will be those who dump sick animals into circulation and the current situation may well not last.

    APH are, thankfully, unable to breed with our wild hogs – Erinaceous, but they are being chucked out into the wild by owners who have got fed up with them. I’ve had two of them in to my wild rescue, Barbara Roberts up in Manchester has, I believe, 40 of them, Tiggywinkles have quite a few and many other wild rescues have seen at least one come through their door.

    Unlike the hogs Hugh was handling, the APH the wild rescues see have usually been mistreated and are far from cute and cuddly. Cute yes but they often bite and try to stick their spines in. The boy I have here couldn’t be rehomed with anyone who doesn’t understand hogs and how to deal with the problem ones. I have plenty of scars to prove it.

    Unfortunately there are already those seeking to make a fast buck by taking wild babies and trying to pass them off as pets. We caught one lad last year trying to sell a litter online. Lay people have trouble telling them apart but those of us closely involved can spot them a mile off and the lad was reported and taken to court for wildlife crime.

    I am in general against any new species being turned into a pet and will do my utmost to stop new fads turning up. I firmly believe action is needed by the Government to stop importation however, APH are here and they’re not going away so we have to do what we can for them.

    The big problem is that cash starved, struggling wildlife rescues end up with the results of people’s need to have something their mates don’t. Vale Wildlife Rescue have had Meerkats, Skunks and Rheas. They have an Emu permanently resident with them as there is nowhere else for her to go. They also have hundreds and hundreds of our native animals that need care.

    Hedgehogs as pets are a particular problem in the UK. All other exotics are just that, exotics, we have nothing like them in this country and it’s pretty obvious to the public if something is running around that shouldn’t be, Hedgehogs are native though and one hog is much like another hog to those not aware of colour differences, feet size and ears.

    Many people today have never seen a wild hog and wouldn’t think to question an APH running around in their garden or lying on a path dying. Even the RSPCA call centre are unlikely to question a finder and just tell them to stick it back under a hedge.

    The one thing we really need is a huge awareness campaign but that would just encourage more owners and more thefts from the wild.

    Sorry that went on a bit Hugh. 🙂

    • As a lay person in all this, it has helped me to learn that APHs are, it seems, a species created by human manipulation. Can anybody explain to me why this species was created in the first place? Was there any motive beyond humans wanting to use other creatures for their own curiosity, entertainment, or pleasure? Maybe it was for medical research at least? Or was this done to benefit the hedgehog world in some way?

      Humans have used animal breeding for medical research, creating different kinds of pets for their own pleasure, animals to parade and compete with at shows, animals to create different kinds of yields and flavours for food. For me, one of the core questions is: despite practices of hundreds of years, across the world, is this the right way to relate to the animal world, either ethically or pragmatically? When something is so prevalent, it is hard in practical terms to pause and consider whether it is ethically sound, and hard to reverse or desist from the practice. We discover frequently that practices we have done unthinkingly for generations across vast areas of the world, do damage to species, the ecosystem, and global social equities; dull people’s ethical and practical awareness of the domino effect of their individual or even collective actions; and might be, simply, not a justifiable activity in ethical terms.

      Clearly the breeders engaged and mentioned in this web discussion go to great lengths to ensure the best possible homes and conditions for the APHs – and it is good to learn that they take their role so seriously. The difficulty is that once they have ‘created’, they cannot completely control the course of what happens next.

      This is the moral of Mary Shelley’s classic tale ‘Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus’. The ‘creature’ is not entirely pleased with it’s creator’s decision to create it, and how humans treat it once it comes into existence. If APHs as individuals or a species were able to talk, I wonder what they would have to say in this dialogue? (It is perhaps worth noting that Frankenstein was not a ‘bad’ person, any more than APH breeders and owners are. This topic is not as naive or black and white as that.)

      And remember, Prometheus stole fire, the power that was supposed to be wielded only by the gods; the consequences were a mixed blessing. That is why the Frankenstein story (Prometheus myth) has such enduring fascination. What responsibility do we take – or can we take – once we have created something? It’s out of our hands, although our hands did the creating.

      So, to jump to another myth, Pandora and her jar. When she opened it, many evils jumped out, and could never be returned. Can we undo what has been done? Pandora released one remaining element, Hope. So, what grounds can we have to hope that, if people continue to breed, sell and distribute APHs, that APHs will not fall into the wrong hands and suffer? One way to stop this happening, is to simply stop breeding them, and let the human-made species gradually die out. Creating APHs is something we can reverse. Are we prepared to put this one back in the jar, give this fire back to the gods?

      • Hideous evidence of corruption in this response Alexander … you reviewed my book on Amazon and it seems like you might have missed one of the chapters! Full story in A Prickly Affair (along with quite a bit of me teasing my American friends!)

      • Sorry Hugh – it is a long time since I read your book, and I don’t remember all the details (mea culpa). I did read the whole thing, honest! My apologies if my postings on this thread reveal the ramblings of someone not in command of the facts. I don’t spend very much time in hedgehog space …

        Maybe on this discussion, I represent at least one part of the uninformed masses? Could that be of any value here? After all, the cognoscenti don’t need to preach to the converted or informed …

    • i completely agree with many things said which is why we as a rescue are working so hard to promote ourselves and the differences between wildies and aph.
      the whole reason the rescue was set up was to make sure we are there to take in any hogs that need help, and to make sure that the wild carers are not taking in hogs that require completely different care and so they dont have to use monies raised for wildie care.

  27. Where I live, I am abviously known for having my hedgehogs and this led both myself and Lou finding that people would ring us up or even turn up on our doorsteps with hedgehogs that were hurt or were found by the side of the road in the daytime – this led to me finding Virginia at Warrington Hedgehog Rescue and over the time I have known her I have taken several injured hedgehogs to her and after watching her work with them I became more determined to help and raise awareness of their plight and Lou is the same and any that come her way go to Gill at Hedgehogbottom Rescue in Thatcham. Not all have made it through but the ones that did have been released or are due to be released when the time is ready.

    Our rescue fully supports these two people – we would ideally like to help many more but have taken the decision to help the two people we know as we have built up a good friendship with them and both have offered to help us with information for our fund raising events.

    We have a good year round list of events and more are being added – the majority of these are local school fetes and events hosted by the pet network in Cheshire – yes, I do take some of my APH with me, they have their own canvas carrier that can be popped together to create a home from home, they have their nest boxes, wheels, food and water. They can and do play a good role in being able to educate people not only about the APH but also about our own wildies. We have two A-boards, one is soley for our wildies and the information used on there has been kindly sent to us by Hedgehog Street, along with some cards with wildflower seeds in them, the other is used for the APH regarding their care requirements and what people should consider before even owning one of them.

    Our tombola prizes have been selected carefully, hedgehog pencil tins with stationery items inside, cuddly hedgehogs and quality toys and trinkets – we are in the process of putting together an information pack that will have information on both as we are trying to hand out as much information as we can – we do not host shows for fellow APH owners to come along as this is not something we would consider.

    At the end of the day, we are trying to do our bit for our wildies and as and when APH come into our rescue, they initially remain with me until I can assess them and also work with them as some have needed lots of work due to mites, diet and the lack of handling – we have a network of foster carers who will then carry on with the guidelines set out for them.

    I love my APH and they get the very best from me – quality diet, quality exercise time, quality handling and quality vet care when needed – these are an exotic pet and the exotic pet trade will always be there and there will always be the need for people who can take in unwanted pets or pets that need homes to changes in circumstance and these people, whatever the species they take in, play an important role in helping to protect and save these animals.

  28. “as ive already said i didnt come on here to cause any arguments.
    i cannot comment and dont really want to about the comments made about me as they havent given their real names and so i dont know who they are and im not sure how you can say they are not “passionately supporting helen and lou” unless you know who they are.
    i wont be commenting on any posts now as i really dont have the time to get involved in more mud slinging”

    but since this post you have made further posts…???

    faith, i did acknowledged you saying you didn’t come to cause an argument and i apologised, but if you re-read the comments made most people seem to have a problem with you, without refering to h or l, going so far as to call you intimidating and a bully, so these comments must come from someone who has known you directly. it looks like you have upset a lot of people sadly.

  29. @Hedgehog Bottom. I was merely responding to a comment made by Hugh (several times) with humour. As I mentioned in my previous post, my aims were well intentioned. The responses to Hugh’s blog entry would suggest I was right in thinking there is a real appetite for broader debate on the subject. My chapter on APHs will provide a broad view of what it’s really like to own a pet hedgehog. Surely this can only be beneficial to everyone involved in the care of hedgehogs.

    • 🙂 Dan I know it was meant with humour but you see the results.

      Any area where people are passionate but the science is inexact is likely to precipitate fallout. Luckily I have a key to one of the empty missile silos at Greenham Common. There is room for two if required. 😀

  30. Hugh stayed with me and at my hedgehog rescue when he visited Colorado and subsequently described the visit in his book. I posted the following on another of Hugh’s threads, but it may be instructive here as well.

    I had the opportunity to interview the fellow who was reportedly the original large exporter of African hedgehogs to the USA in 2001 (he, alone, exported 50,000). He was operating a reptile export business in Lagos, Nigeria when some men from Kano, northern Nigeria were selling Central African hedgehogs that they had gathered up. At that time, these hedgehogs were supposedly overpopulating around Kano (a city of some 3 million) and starving, getting run over, and invading dumps, etc. An initial shipment of 2,000 of these hedgehogs traveled by Air Nigeria to New York City in 1991. They sold in the wholesale pet trade and so further shipments of 2,000 or so began moving from Lagos to NYC and Miami. By the time these hedgehogs were becoming “fad” exotic pets around 1993, the overpopulation issue around Kano had abated and in order to meet demand, the hedgehog gatherers went further afield – into Benin and Niger – in search of more. This is where supposedly the Algerian hedgehogs came from and were imported in 1993 and 1994. In 1994, the US Department of Agriculture placed a quarantine (I think it was 90 days) on all live animal imports coming from countries having hoof and mouth disease, which essentially ended the importation of African hedgehogs. During the period of 1991 to 1994, it is estimated that about 80,000 African hedgehogs were imported into North America. Virtually all of the African hedgehogs that are here in the USA today are the descendants of those original 80,000 and the hedgehog community here estimates that the North American population is between 100,000 and 140,000. Through all of this, here we feel that the largest travesty was the feverish inbreeding done by profiteers when the USDA closed the door and the price of a breeding pair went as high as $5,000. Over the years, the descendants of these inbred animals have died early deaths due to hereditary fatal illnesses, especially a degenerative myelopathy which paralyzes and kills the hedgehog by about 18 to 24 months of age. Due to this activity, a Registry was begun in 1997 to assist ethical breeders in only breeding from clear blood lines and that Registry (the IHR) is still operated today by the International Hedgehog Association (IHA). There is also an organization called the Hedgehog Breeders Alliance (HBA) which imposes a rather rigorous Code of Ethics upon its members (www.hedgehogbreederalliance.org). So, it seems that these imports have alleviated the overpopulation problem in northern Nigeria, and were conveniently stopped as remote wild populations were being encroached upon. However, I understand that there is a small African hedgehog trade with these being imported into several countries, including the UK, the Philippines, and several South American countries. I have also seen a few (very few) Middle Eastern and Russian hedgehogs in the USA, these most likely being smuggled in by military members and immigrants. Being desert dwellers, African hedgehogs make very judicious use of water and are odorless if healthy. They are quiet, clean, hypoallergenic, and just may enjoy living indoors in Denver more than in a trash dump and dodging traffic in Kano.

    As far as the “pygmy” business is concerned, as far as I know that was an incorrect label applied to them early by the U.S. pet trade in an effort to differentiate them from their slightly larger UK/European cousins. Of the 14 species of hedgehogs worldwide (Reeve, 1994), all of the species other than the UK/European (Erinaceus) are of similar size and even then there is considerable overlap. I also suspect that that there were already hybrid hedgehogs in the wild since atelerix albiventris and atelerix algirus can breed as the species were commingled north of Nigeria in Niger. As far as I know, the only officially endangered species of hedgehog (but, Hugh, I’m not sure about those in China) of the South African hedgehog, atelerix frontalis, of which considerable research has been done by the Mammal Institute at the University of Pretoria.

    Best wishes, Z. G. Standing Bear at The Flash and Thelma Memorial Hedgehog Rescue, Inc., in Divide, Colorado USA

  31. In looking over the above comments, I can add a few additional items. Per Nigel Reeve (1994) I believethe expected lifespan for wild hedgehogs is about two years, given natural and human made hazards, although they supposedly can live to age five or so. A captive African hedgehog, if well cared for and free of fatal illnesses can typically live for 4 to 6 years. In fact, using a mainframe computer at Colorado Sate University and combining two statistical data packages, I created a human-hedgehog comparative age table and would be glad to share that with anyone wishing to see it (it was published in the IHA News) via email pdf file attachment (just email me at mgspikers@aol.com). The oldest hedgehog of record (IHR registered) that I know of was a fellow named Packie, who lived his entire life in Florida and passed on at ten years, eleven months, and eleven days. The Guinness people have been notified. The oldest hedgehog to ever live here at our Rescue was Reggie, who made it to eight years and two months of age. In caring long term for some 350 African hedgehogs since 1996 (not counting those we have placed in foster care), an anaysis of our data base of nearly 300 deceased hedgehogs, the average longevity was 3.78 years. However, that number is not very meaningful since we take in many that are injured and ill.

    Best wishes, Z. G. Standing Bear at The Flash and Thelma Memorial Hedgehog rescue, Inc., in Divide, Colorado USA

  32. 80,000! Good God. I’m stunned at those numbers. Thankyou for that info.

    I have to dispute “quiet, clean” though. The one we have here makes a fearful mess and racket on his wheel every night. On more than one occasion I’ve been ready to call out a plumber to see to the pipework. 😀

  33. In the small mammal pet trade in north America, 80,000 is a miniscule number and does not even register on the charts of the major pet trade organizations (such as the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council – PIJAC). And of the total population in North America (est. 100K to 140K) we do not consider there to be a hedgehog pet overpopulation problem. Indeed, in the large and tragic exotic animal seizure at US Global Exotics in december of 2009 where 27,000 animals were seized, all of the surviving hedgehogs (about 590 or so) were distributed around the USA and Canada to homes and most found permanent accommodations. Here at our rescue we took in some special needs hedgehogs initially from that project (including the second hedgehog we encountered with severe scoliosis and khyphosis (severely deformed spine). Later we took in more from people who could no longer care for them (mainly due to their own health issues). The owners of US Global Exotics were cited for felony criminal animal abuse and neglect charges, whereupon they fled the country.

    The other hedgehog we had with a severely deformed spine (Buttercup) won the Gold Medal at the Hedgehog Olympics at the 2007 Rocky Mountain Hedgehog Show (Hugh was there and wrote about her extensively in his book). But that was not the end of the story for Buttercup. An article about her titled “She’s Doesn’t Know She’s Disabled” in the IHA News found its way to the National Scoliosis Foundation in Boston, Massachusetts. I was invited to bring Buttercup to Boston to participate in an educational scoliosis screening video to be shown to fifth graders. Although they seemingly had a problem with volume modulation, Buttercup has now been seen by some 13 million children, thus making her the most viewed living hedgehog in the world. The video is on Youtube – National Scoliosis Foundation Catch the Curve.

    As for the “quiet, clean” business, it certainly must be noted that hedgehogs, like humans, are very individual in their personalities. My experience has been that many/most are clean and quiet, but there are always exceptions where some are “pricklebutts,” and others are downright slobs. And this is not always due to abuse or neglect, for some hedgehogs that have come from horrible conditions have been the sweetest and cleanest (including one that was found at midnight on a sidewalk in 40 degree (F) weather nearly dead at 226 grams). The woman who found her thought she was a baby porcupine but quickly learned otherwise and telephoned me at 2AM. That was almost three years ago and Minna the hedgeghog is holding steady at 390 grams and has the most playful and sweet personality, even putting up with a hysterectomy for uterine cancer 18 months ago (the cancer did not spread). On the other hand, a very striking Algerian black hedgehog from a long pedigree, was a very ornery fellow who would not have any pleasantries. However, he was bred with one of the few IHA Permanent Grand Champions (I think there have been only 23 of them) and we wound up with two of the boys from that litter of five, one very mellow (cinnamon colored) and resembling his Mom and the other a dark gray Algerian resembling his Dad in color and attitude. However, even the one resembling his Dad has come around considerably and is now a semi-charming fellow (they are almost 3 years old).

    Best wishes, Z. G. Standing Bear at The Flash and Thelma Memorial Hedgehog Rescue, Inc., in Divide, Colorado USA

  34. Thanks, Hugh, for bringing up the topic for discussion. I see both sides of the issue have been covered and feel that education is probably the best way of understanding and dealing with this dilemma. Standing Bear has presented a lot of valuable information regarding the African hedgehog and how it became the fad pet that is so loved by the American public today. I had been a breeder for a number of years, working hard to eliminate WHS from my breeding program. We have a pretty good idea on how it works in a genetic sense, but without testing, it is impossible to know if you have any animals carrying the factor to produce the problem. After five successful years of not having the disease showing up in any of my animals or their offspring, I was on top of the world. I thought I had it eradicated from my animals and had all safe and healthy animals. What I didn’t know was that I had two carriers of the genes. Until I put those two together for one litter, I had no idea that I had the potential problem. Eighteen months later, two of the three babies of that union came down with full blown WHS. It’s a heartbreaking disease to have to deal with and it was at that time I decided that I could no longer breed these sweet animals and be guilty of bringing any more WHS hedgehogs into this world. I had young animals from the carrier pair. NONE of those showed any signs of the disease but I knew that any one of them could be carrying the disease and if I paired them with another carrier, it could happen again. I quit at that time and am no longer breeding. I love these little creatures and can’t imagine finding myself ever not having at least one in my life. I have now established a rescue and will continue to take in any animals in need of homes. I, too, have several of the US Global hedgehogs that had been confiscated. Of the eleven I took in, one of them has already died of WHS. So far, the rest appear to be healthy, not well adjusted, but healthy. Some are friendlier than others and seem to enjoy some interaction with humans, while others prefer to not have much handling and I base my care on their desires.

    As someone in this group mentioned, if we realistically look at it, ALL animals have their wild introduction to humans. If we looked at it that way, today we would have no pets, no dogs, no cats and none of the other creatures that we consider domesticated today.

    Again, Hugh, thanks for the discussion. I was so happy to meet you at the Colorado show, have read you book and enjoyed it, even if you think we Americans are a bit crazy when it comes to hedgehogs (amongst other things). I hope you remember meeting my tenrecs at that show, too. I’m sure we could go into another discussion over whether tenrecs should be kept as a pet. With the destruction of their environment in Madagascar, it won’t be long that the only living tenrecs may be found in zoos and by private collectors and breeders. But that’s another discussion or argument.

    • Pat, thank you – and yes, of course – I use a photo of a tenrec of yours in my talks – introducing a section on taxonomy. I was not expecting quite such a heated debate – but it is interesting all the same. Hope all yours are well. h

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