Becoming a Hedgehog Friendly Campus – Bronze Award31 December 2021
Hedgehogs are arguably the UK’s favourite mammal. They have officially earned this accolade twice. In 2013, hedgehogs were named Britain’s ‘National Species’ in a BBC Wildlife Magazine poll, and in 2016 they won comfortably the Royal Society of Biology ‘Favourite UK Mammal’ public vote.
Despite their enormous popularity, the truth is that hedgehogs are in trouble in the UK, having suffered a 50% population decline in rural areas and 30% in urban areas in the last 20 years. It is thus not surprising that they have been classified as a species vulnerable to extinction in the latest Red List for Britain’s Mammals.
Many factors may be contributing to hedgehog declines in the UK and research is underway to provide more detailed information on this issue. However, threats faced by rural and urban hedgehogs are well known. These include habitat loss and fragmentation, widespread use of pesticides that reduces their prey and increases hedgehog exposure to these harmful chemicals, and road casualties. Unfortunately, hedgehogs are also affected by the incorrect disposal of rubbish (litter) and may suffer a myriad of garden accidents.
The good news is that we can all do our bit to help this charismatic species and with that in mind Cardiff University, as part of its Ecosystem Resilience and Biodiversity Action Plan (ERBAP), has signed up this year for the Hedgehog Friendly Campus accreditation scheme, joining around 150 other university, college, and primary school campuses across the country. Hedgehog Friendly Campus is a national biodiversity programme set up by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS), which offers free support to educational organisations that wish to transform their campuses into safe havens where hedgehogs can thrive.
With the help of our enthusiastic volunteers, including both students and staff, we were able to carry out a range of activities this year that will hopefully allow us to achieve the Hedgehog Friendly Campus Bronze Award.
Our journey to achieve Hog Friendly Bronze Award
The decision to sign up for the scheme was easy, but it meant that we needed to form a working group comprised of staff and student volunteers to run the programme at Cardiff University. It started with a small number of staff, who were already part of the ERBAP steering group, and a small number of placement students, but soon we were able to encourage a few postgraduate students and colleagues from the estates, grounds, communications, health & safety, environment, and wellbeing teams to join. The working group is also supported by a representative of the Hedgehog Helpline that provides expert advice on hedgehog care. The scheme was launched officially at Cardiff University via an online event on the 3rd of March, during sustainability week. We created social media channels (Twitter, Instagram) and also a YouTube channel to share our content and videos.
Where are they?
Before implementing any measures to improve our green areas to be more welcoming for hedgehogs we first needed to know if they were already present, and if yes, where in the campus. To collect this information, our committed volunteers conducted a series of hedgehog surveys, using footprint tunnels, in six different locations between April and July. We were pleased to find out that hedgehogs were already present at all surveyed sites. We even got our first trail camera footage of a hedgehog investigating our footprint tunnels! Surveys will re-start in Spring 2022.
One of our main aims for this year was to raise the profile of hedgehogs and the Hedgehog Friendly Campus campaign among staff, students, and local communities. To achieve this, we actively posted information about hedgehogs, the threats they face and what we can do to help, via our social media and internal channels. We have also placed our first hedgehog information board at the ground floor of the Sir Martin Evans Building. In May, during Hedgehog Awareness Week, we ran several activities, including a creative competition under the theme ‘Hedgehogs in towns and cities’, hosted two live talks (‘An intro to hedgehogs’ by Angela Thomson-Roach from the Hedgehog Helpline and ‘Helping Hedgehogs in Towns and Cities’ by Abi Gazzard from the University of Reading), and made available on our YouTube Channel the tutorial video ‘Invertebrate sampling: a whirlwind tour’ by Max Tercel (PhD student at Cardiff University). We also took our engagement stand to the Cardiff University Farmers’ Market, Freshers’ Fair and Winter Wellbeing Fair, allowing us to interact in person with students and staff, and our student ambassadors successfully delivered interactive online sessions to pupils of two Welsh primary schools. We featured on a piece for InterCardiff and on the NRW Education and Learning Newsletter, promoting our activities beyond the university channels. Key staff attended a hedgehog first aid training session and stickers were added to strimmers to remind users to check for hedgehogs in vegetation before mowing. Finally, we ran our #HogSOS campaign to bring attention to the signs of a hedgehog in need of help and what steps to follow to provide first aid assistance.
This year we ran the ‘Plog for Hogs’ fundraising event during Hedgehog Awareness Week, which raised £240 for the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS). We have also placed a stamp collection box at the main entrance (reception desk) of the Sir Martin Evans Building. Used stamps will be used to raise further funds for the BHPS in the new year.
Litter picks and litter pick challenge
Spot it, pick it, bin it! This was our slogan for our participation in the Big Hog Friendly Litter Pick Challenge 2021, a UK-wide competition involving hog friendly teams. We ran 12 organised litter picking events around campus, but also at local parks and other local areas with the help of Keep Wales Tidy and the Tremorfa Park Community Group. In total, 73 volunteers collected 75 general waste bags and 11 recycling bags. While we came second in the university category, the ultimate winners were the local hedgehogs and other wildlife across the country. Earlier in the year we had also run a series of staff-led and student-led litter picks and we are planning to increase the frequency of these in 2022.
Creating homes for wildlife
We were keen to build and place new homes for hedgehogs and other wildlife in campus and were delighted to get a positive response from our estates and site management teams to place four further hedgehog houses (some kindly built or donated by Cardiff University staff!) in addition to the one already in place. These are now present at five of the six sites that were surveyed in Spring and early Summer. We also got the green light to carry out an invertebrate species bioblitz and create a wildlife corner in the main campus. During this first bioblitz, we recorded species that were seen flying around (e.g., bumblebees, butterflies) and for other invertebrate groups we used a mix of techniques, including pitfall traps and insect nets. We documented 34 entries on our data sheet! It will be interesting to compare these results with future surveys. Our wildlife corner, known as Centre for Bug Life/Canolfan Bywyd Pryfed (a nod to our newly built Centre for Student Life!) includes a bug hotel built with wooden pallets, two log/leaf piles and a hedgehog house. Approximately 20 people joined us to create this wildlife corner. Volunteers helped not only by assembling the features, but also by collecting natural materials (pine cones, sticks, leaves) from nearby parks to populate the bug hotel, while doing a quick litter pick. We are planning further additions and upgrades to the site for the next months, so keep an eye out if you want to get involved. Earlier in the year, we also signed up to Plantlife’s #NoMowMay campaign, with the support of our estates and grounds teams. The campaign was a massive success and a few weeks later we had a wonderful and colourful campus. Check out this twitter thread describing the wildflowers found in the areas of campus left untouched during May. In the School of Biosciences, we also reserved a small green area to create a wildflower meadow and honeybees were observed enjoying it at the end of the No Mow May campaign. We are now looking forward to seeing what new wildflowers will emerge in Spring!
And our acknowledgements go to…
This was a rewarding year, and we could not be more pleased with what we achieved as a team. The contributions of student ambassadors and volunteers were vital to the campaign, and for that, a sincere thanks from the working group to all of them. Our invited speakers, including the University of Liverpool Hog Friendly team who gave a talk about their own journey, were all brilliant and we are so grateful to them for kindly accepting our invitation to talk with us. We also want to thank the members of the ERBAP steering group for their continuous support and encouragement and our estates, site management, school office, catering, and digital communications colleagues that were as enthusiastic as us in our drive to help hedgehogs. They managed to make what seemed impossible at first, possible! Finally, we could not fail to mention Jo Wilkinson, the Hedgehog Friendly Campus Programme Manager, without her on the other side of the email to respond to all our queries and provide much needed resources, our journey would not have been so smooth.
Please keep those fingers crossed for our Bronze Award and see you all in the new year!