Feb 1

We’ve asked conservation organisations around the world to nominate a species that they believe to be overlooked, underappreciated and unloved, and tell us why they think that they deserve a fair share of the limelight, this Valentine’s Day.

Each nominee’s story is featured on the Arkive blog with information on the species, what makes them so special, the conservation organisation that nominated them and how they are working to save them from extinction.

Click the ‘unloved species’ tag above to see all of the nominations and their blogs.

Once you have perused the blogs you can vote for your favourite to help get them into the top ten unloved species and get them the recognition that they truly deserve! Share your favourite with others using the #LoveSpecies hashtag on Twitter and Facebook and tell them why they should vote for them too. Voting closes on February 14th at 23:59 PST (07:59 GMT).

Join us and our conservation partners in celebrating and raising awareness for some of the world’s most unloved species this Valentine’s Day!

Species: Hedgehog

Nominated by: Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust

Conservation status UK priority species. According to the latest report in 2015 by Peoples Trust for Endangered Species & British Hedgehog Preservation Society there has been a continuing decline of the hedgehog across the UK, in both rural and urban landscapes. Since 2000, rural populations have declined by at least a half and urban populations by up to a third in the same period.

Why do you love it? It’s iconic, it’s enigmatic, it’s humble, it’s the gardener’s best friend and it’s quietly shuffling off this mortal coil with barely a squeak. In the past, the hedgehog has been a species which everyone has seen in their gardens or bumbling along down the streets in the evenings.

Despite the hedgehog’s spiky exterior, it has become embedded in British culture and is positively welcomed into gardens as a pest-controlling friend, it is much loved by everyone we talk to – everyone has a hedgehog tale to tell. Unfortunately it’s polite and secretive little character has seen its rapid decline go relatively unnoticed until recently – and more and more the answer we get when we ask ‘have you seen a hedgehog recently?’ is, ‘Actually, when I think about it – not for a years!’. We think it’s a long time overdue to show a little love to the humble hedgehog!

What are the threats to the hedgehog? There are many reasons for the decline in the UK hedgehog population, although the main reason is thought to be habitat fragmentation. As hedgerows have declined and roads have carved up the countryside, the foraging pathways for hedgehogs have disappeared and small pockets of populations which can’t travel between each other are formed. These populations can’t move or adjust to local pressures, whether that be disease, predation, flooding, starvation or the building of a new estate.

Intensive farming means the countryside no longer offers the comfort of many pastures to forage and hedgerows to shelter in. Pasture land which previously provided a varied habitat with plenty of insects have been turned into arable fields and ploughed for production; hedgerows have been removed to create larger, easier to plough fields; and pesticides have reduced the number of insects) available to be foraged.

In urban areas the story isn’t much better. Previously ‘leaky’ gardens are being made impenetrable with 6ft solid fencing and walls preventing our hedgehogs moving around and finding food and shelter; our gardens are becoming just too tidy – paving, concrete and gravel really doesn’t provide many spaces for insects to live and it really isn’t conducive to hibernation or shelter (well except for those lovely wood piles we built in the Autumn ready for bonfire night!). Pesticides are also a major factor, not only reducing hedgehog food sources, but also by direct poisoning – sadly they can’t tell the difference between a juicy fresh slug and one full of poison!

The largest and most dangerous ‘predator’ to the hedgehog is the car. Tens of thousands of hedgehogs are killed on roads every year, after all spines are little defence against a huge metal vehicle.

What are you doing to save it? In 2015 we launched a campaign to raise awareness of the plight of the hedgehog within Gloucestershire. Not only do we want to raise awareness and promote positive action from the public in their own gardens, but we are also desperate to gather local data to enable us to direct and focus our own conservation efforts to the areas where it is most needed.

We wanted to get across that although we know that hedgehogs are struggling, that their populations are declining – fast – it is very difficult to tell much more than that at this point. Both nationally and within Gloucestershire we know relatively little about the current population status of hedgehogs – and with limited data it is difficult to tell exactly what we can do and where we should focus our conservation efforts.

The most important thing we can do now is to find out more – the more we know the more we can do. So we need sightings. We need to know when you see a hedgehog (alive or dead) and equally important, we need know if you HAVEN’T SEEN a hedgehog in your garden or your local area. By gathering this information we can work out where they are, and over several years, how healthy the population is and where we need to focus our future conservation efforts.

If you live inGloucestershire, get involved with Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s hedgehog project

Find out more about Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s work

Discover more hedgehog species on Arkive