Status: 05.12.2023, 20:00 PM
By: Sophie Kluß
With the election of the "Animal of the Year", the German Wildlife Foundation draws attention to an endangered wild animal every year. In 2024, the focus will be on the protection of hedgehogs.
They are out and about in meadows, gardens and forests – hedgehogs are supposedly everywhere. But the impression is deceptive: its population is steadily declining, as BR24 reports. For this reason, the spiny insectivore was voted Animal of the Year 2024 by the Foundation's donors.
Hedgehogs are on the "pre-warning list" in Germany
The brown-breasted hedgehog, commonly referred to simply as a hedgehog, is native to almost all of Germany. Due to its dwindling habitat, for example due to sealed areas and gravel gardens, "this election is intended to draw attention to the spiny bearer, which is listed on the Red List of mammals in Germany in the 'pre-warning list'," according to the German Wildlife Foundation.
Since 2017, the donors of the German Wildlife Foundation have been selecting an Animal of the Year to be drawn to the public's attention. Be it because of its endangerment, the threat to its habitat or because it causes a human-wildlife conflict. But animals that are perceived one-sidedly or even unpopular can also become Animal of the Year. After all, all wild animals are fascinating and need a voice so that their survival can be ensured in the long term.
German Wildlife Foundation – https://www.deutschewildtierstiftung.de/naturschutz/tier-des-jahres
Hedgehog-hostile habitat in the countryside
Because hedgehogs need "small-scale structures such as bushes and woody plants in which they can find sufficient food and hiding places", which they often no longer find in the countryside, the spiny carriers are increasingly moving to residential and settlement areas with gardens or green spaces, according to the German Wildlife Foundation (DWS). But it is precisely there that hedgehogs are exposed to the greatest dangers: robotic lawnmowers and cars injure or kill numerous animals every year. Around half a million hedgehogs die every year in road traffic alone. The number of animals that fall victim to robotic lawnmowers cannot be estimated, as most hedgehogs retreat into the bushes to die.
Hedgehogs are solitary creatures. This means that hedgehog mothers raise their offspring on their own. © Viewpoint/Imago
Help for hedgehogs: hedgehog-friendly gardens and safe hiding places
If you want to provide shelter for the cute spiny animals, you can look for a hedgehog-friendly structure in the garden. Natural spots and natural vegetation serve the hedgehog as a hiding place, sleeping quarters and nursery. NABU has put together a clear checklist for a hedgehog-friendly garden. You can also support the animals in the cities: According to DWS, it is important to have public parks with bushes and shrubs that are not immaculately tidy. In addition, read how to help the hedgehog hibernate.
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Interesting facts about hedgehogs
- Hedgehogs are among the oldest mammals on earth – they have survived several ice ages in around 65 million years.
- The hedgehog offspring are already born with spines, about 100 in number. To protect the mother during childbirth, however, they are initially very soft.
- Hedgehogs have an inner map. For example, she shows them hiding places, feeding places or places to slip through.
- Hedgehogs are good swimmers and have a keen sense of hearing.
- Adult animals have 6,000-8,000 spines, but they are hollow because its spiny coat would otherwise be too heavy for the hedgehog. Fancy spines grow back.
Incidentally, the hedgehog as Animal of the Year 2024 follows the garden dormouse in 2023. The insectivore also prevailed over the squirrel and the red fox this year.