In the past six months there has also been a 5% rise in UK ownership, according to the African pygmy hedgehog registry. As a hedgehog ecologist, I really hope this trend doesn't take off again, despite the very real cuteness of these animals, and the undoubted pleasure of being able to handle one.Of course you do.
Leaving aside the ethics of the exotic pet industry, there are some important reasons why we should not encourage the pet hedgehog craze in the UK. Firstly, there is a depressing inevitability that unscrupulous people will pick up wild hedgehogs and try to sell them on (there is evidence that they already have).Well, at least we don’t have that issue with the primates!
Secondly, people get bored of their pet hedgehogs. They are nocturnal, like to move around a lot and need a wheel on which to run. They also tend to poop as they run and end up smearing the wheel and themselves in faeces that will need to be cleaned up every day. Boredom with your pet will result in a desire to get rid of it. Even though APHs are a different species to the hedgehogs we have in the UK and unsuited to the British climate, people tend to release them into the wild, or hand them in to hedgehog carers. Already overstretched, these volunteers end up with another mouth to feed – and one that cannot be set free.This is, once again, no different to people who neglect their cats, dogs, horses, etc.
But the main reason why this trend should not be encouraged is that we already have hedgehogs that are in need of help. The UK's hedgehog population has fallen by 37% in the past 10 years – a faster rate of decline than that being experienced by tigers in the wild.Hmmm, and hasn’t that decline gone hand in hand with the rise of the badger? Who tends to find hedgehogs rather delicious?