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Even hedgehogs are up for a royal party

A popular zoo in Rutland is celebrating two new arrivals – and staff decided to commemorate the royal wedding by naming them Harry and Meghan.

Neither of the European hedgehogs are releasable, so they are being kept at Bugtopia to act as ambassadors for hedgehogs in the UK.

Keeper Dan Collin said: “Harry (curled up in a ball on the left in the photo) is a male and is no- releasable because he only has three legs. Meghan (on the right) is a female and because she has been hand-reared she is too habituated towards people to survive in the wild.

“Our new arrivals aren’t on display just yet as we’re keeping them in our behind the scenes quarantine facilities while they settle in.

“We’ve given them their royal names because hedgehogs are an influential part of the UK’s identity, just like the royal family – it just wouldn’t be the UK without them!”

The zoo is using the new additions to raise awareness of the plight of our spikey garden friends, whose numbers have been in decline for some time.

Keeper Dan said: “Hedgehogs are in trouble at the moment for a couple of reasons; road collisions is one, scarcity and poisoning of food is another thanks to pesticides on crops and slug repellent in homes, but habitat loss is one of the main problems. Their population has dropped by 30% in the last ten years, which is a decline as fast as tigers.”

There are many ways you can help hedgehogs, as Dan explains.

He said: “One of the most effective ways is to stop using slug repellent in your garden. Hedgehogs are nature’s slug repellent, so we don’t need to use unnatural poisons as long as we have these guys keeping the pest numbers down for us.

“Another way is to let your garden grow wild. It only has to be a square metre or so, but if you let parts of your garden grow naturally without cutting or weeding it gives hedgehogs a safe space to hide away in the daytime. Piles of logs/ leaves, compost heaps and specially-built hedgehog houses are also great ways to give a hedgehog a home.

“Hedgehog highways are also great. Hedgehogs will travel up to 2km per night while foraging for food and searching for mates, so having a small gap in your fence (no bigger than 13cm²) allows the hedgehogs in your garden to roam freely.

“Finally, you can offer hedgehogs food in your garden at night. Dry and wet, non-fish based dog/cat food works great as well as specially-bought hedgehog food, but never offer milk and bread. The bread is too high in sugar and milk gives them diarrhoea!

“A shallow bowl of water is also good particularly in the summer so they don’t dehydrate in the heat. “

The zoo is hoping Harry and Meghan will inspire people to make their gardens more hedgehog friendly so future generations can enjoy the species.

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