Welcome to the Ipswich Hedgehog Officer

Monday 19th September 2016

After an overwhelming response to our search for a hedgehog officer to work in Ipswich, Ali North today begins the task of making Ipswich the most hedgehog friendly town in the country.

Ali's two year role has been funded with support from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). In that time she'll be using her conservation skills along with the support of Ipswich residents to make the town even more attractive for hedgehogs.

Ipswich was chosen as a focus for the Trust's hedgehog conservation work after a public appeal calling for hedgehog sightings showed it to be something of a hedgehog hotspot. The town already has good green networks with its historic parks, centrally located allotments, churchyards and school grounds. Ali's task will be to explore the potential to link up existing habitat into gardens and neighbourhoods, allowing hedgehogs (who, on an average night will roam around 2km) to move safely between these areas.

This will involve using the 'Hedgehog Street' approach, linking garden to garden and garden to nearby good-quality habitat. Something as simple as putting a small hole in a fence, or leaving a rough corner in a garden can make a world of difference to a hedgehog - and when these actions are undertaken on a large scale it can turn around the fortunes for a local population.

Ali will be the fourth hedgehog officer in England, joining Henry Johnson, the face of Hedgehog Street - as well as two hedgehog officers leading projects in the midlands with Warwickshire Wildlife Trust. All four hedgehog officers will work together, sharing best practice, survey and fieldwork findings and no doubt the odd hedgehog-themed anecdote.

Ali said on her first day in post:

"I can't wait to get stuck in. There's been huge interest in the role already and I actually started my day on the BBC Suffolk breakfast show! I hope this means there will be wide support from the people of Ipswich and that they are ready to get involved in helping the hedgehogs in their town."

Fay Vass, chief executive of BHPS added:

"We wish Ali every luck as she starts her new and important role as the country’s 4th dedicated Hedgehog Officer.  The British Hedgehog Preservation Society is delighted to be involved with all of the Hedgehog Officers who are working hard across the country to help hedgehogs and raise awareness of the problems hedgehogs face."

As Ali settles into life at Suffolk Wildlife Trust she will begin talking to residents and groups, looking at the reasons behind the dramatic decline of hedgehogs (there is thought to be fewer than 1 million remaining in England) as well as hedgehog ecology and providing practical advice for gardeners. Good wildlife gardening practices will benefit a wide range of animals, not just hedgehogs and gardens are an absolutely essential part of the mix when it comes to ensuring a healthy eco-system.

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