Widdecombe calls for hedgehog law

The Government should introduce a new hedgehog protection law to prevent the animals sliding towards extinction, Ann Widdecombe has urged.

The former MP is launching the Wildlife Aid Foundation's "Save Harry" campaign calling for a Hedgehog Protection Act to reverse major declines in populations of the the well-loved garden visitor.

The wildlife charity is proposing a new law which would make wilful killing of hedgehogs illegal and a mandatory code of practice to help conserve the species.

Miss Widdecombe said: "Sixty years ago there were about 36 million hedgehogs. Incredibly this number had plummeted to some two million by the 1990s and could now be down to under a million. We need to take action now before extinction becomes a very real prospect."

She said previous warnings on the plight of the hedgehog have had little effect because they had put the onus just on individuals to act to help the creatures, for example by making their gardens more wildlife-friendly.

Hedgehogs are classed as a priority for conservation, but they are just one of more than a thousand species covered by wildlife initiatives.

Wildlife Aid Foundation's founder and director Simon Cowell said a protection law and mandatory code of practice would force government agencies including Network Rail and the Highways Agency to treat the hedgehog's plight as critical.

And it would prompt trade and consumer bodies to take notice and issue advice to their members on how to help the hedgehog.

He said: "I was privileged to grow up at a time when hedgehogs were commonplace. Sadly these wonderful little creatures are no longer a common sight in Britain's countryside. Unless we act now they could soon disappear altogether. I want future generations in Britain to be able to see our native hedgehogs."

A spokeswoman for Defra, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: "The number of hedgehogs mean that they are not considered an endangered species, but they are one of our conservation priorities and are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act."