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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Call for volunteers for 'Operation Hedgehog'

Baby hedgehogInternational Animal Rescue is supporting a mission to rescue hedgehogs from the Western Isles of Scotland. We are calling for volunteers to help Uist Hedgehog Rescue (UHR)* catch and relocate hedgehogs from the islands of Uist and Benbecula for the third year running.

The rescue operation aims to save the hedgehogs from a cull by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) who believe they are eating the eggs of wading birds during the breeding season. Important populations of groundnesting birds live on the islands and it is thought that the hedgehogs are responsible for their declining numbers.**

During initial discussions on how to resolve the problem, UHR presented a scientific study and detailed rescue plan to SNH to prevent the unnecessary killing of healthy animals. However, the plan was rejected by SNH who then set about catching and killing the hedgehogs during spring 2003 and again in 2004. The cull is to be resumed in 2005.

UHR plans to begin catching and relocating hedgehogs on 4 April, when they start to emerge from hibernation. The rescue operation will continue until the end of May, although after mid-May only males will be caught. This is to ensure that no heavily pregnant or nursing females are removed. The hedgehogs will be given a veterinary check before being transported to the mainland for rehabilitation and release into carefully selected sites. The welfare of both relocated animals and hedgehogs resident at the release sites will be a priority at all times.

In support of the mission, IAR is calling for volunteers to travel to the islands and assist with the rescue operation. As in previous years, local islanders will also be enlisted to help. Volunteers are asked to stay a minimum of ten days (and preferably two weeks) in order to keep costs down. Reasonable expenses will be paid, but volunteers will be asked to help with their travel costs.

Anyone interested in finding out more about volunteering should contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890 801.

* Uist Hedgehog Rescue (UHR) is a consortium of Advocates for Animals, British Hedgehog Preservation Society, Hessilhead Animal Rescue Centre and International Animal Rescue (IAR).

** The EU Birds Directive protects all wild birds, their nests, eggs and habitats within the European Community. It gives EU member states the power and responsibility to protect birds which are rare or vulnerable in Europe as well as all migratory birds which are regular visitors.