Central London’s only remaining population of hedgehogs are facing a major threat to their survival, following proposals to use one of their last-known habitats as a lorry park.
Experts from ZSL (Zoological Society of London) will be appealing to a House of Lords Select Committee next week (Wednesday 14 September) to request that HS2 find an alternative location for their HGV and construction vehicles; so as not to cause irreversible damage to the population of hedgehogs that live in the dense-shrubbery borders of ZSL London Zoo’s car park.
HS2 – the proposed high speed rail link between London and the north of England – want to use the Zoo’s car park as a lorry park for heavy goods vehicles and construction trucks for up to 20 years, despite conservation surveys identifying the land as a key habitat for the declining British species.
ZSL has been working with the Royal Parks Foundation and independent hedgehog experts for the last two years to carry out surveys of Regent’s Park – staffed by volunteers including ZSL’s conservationists, scientists and vets – with early findings suggesting that the group of hedgehogs living in the car park are actually faring better than their counterparts in the main Park, but further assessments are needed to determine why.
Despite HS2’s acknowledgement that their proposal poses a risk to the hedgehogs, they are not considering alternative locations, leaving the urban animals in a vulnerable position.
David Field, Zoological Director of ZSL, said: “It may seem strange that we’re seeking protection for a car park, but this is an example of the increasingly desperate reality for urban wildlife. Forced by human pressures to find sanctuary in the unlikeliest of places, it is our duty to protect the remaining refuges of these creatures.
“While HS2 have admitted that their proposed use of the car park as a lorry-holding site will pose a risk to the hedgehogs, they have not accepted our advice that no mitigation measures will be enough to protect them from that risk.
“With the hedgehog surveys still in their infant stages, we’ve only just begun to learn more about these creatures living in the Park, and we need more surveys, more information and more time to understand how we can best protect them. We can’t do this if the car park becomes a 24/7 hub for construction.”
Next week’s Select Committee hearing could represent the last chance for ZSL and other concerned local residents to safeguard the habitat of these enigmatic animals. ZSL London Zoo is asking people to join the fight for this important habitat and prevent HS2 taking over the hedgehogs’ home by tweeting @zsllondonzoo using #TeamHedgehog.