May 312007

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Vienna starts first hedgehog-count

Vienna – Austria’s capital Vienna wants to keep a tab on its spiky residents, setting up the city’s first-ever hedgehog-count. In cooperation with Naturschutzbund, an animal welfare organization, the city magistrates Thursday called on the Viennese to count hedgehogs in their neighbourhood. “We ask people to report sightings of hedgehogs online,” explained Naturschutzbund’s Christine Puehringer. “The users fill out a form, pinpointing exactly where, when and how many hedgehogs they saw.”

The hedgehog are a so-called synanthropic animal, meaning it lives close to the human environment. In their new habitat, hedgehogs are in need of special protection.

“Hedgehogs are dependent on having space next to us,” Puehringer said.

An urban hedgehog still needs wide, diversely structured green areas and “travelling” corridors in order to survive and not end up flattened under a car’s wheels.

“Hedgehogs need compost heaps or wood to hide under and meadows. They won’t find food on an English lawn,” Puehringer said.

The aims of the programme are two-fold: One is to get a clearer picture of Vienna’s hedgehog population, the second is to show which areas around town are still provide a suitable environment for wild animals, as the existence of the spiky critters indicates adequate “quality of life” both for humans and animals alike.

With the information given by Vienna’s hedgehog-counters on the especially established internet-platform, the organizers hope to establish a city map showing the hedgehog population density.

In one or two months, Puehringer hopes, the first hedgehog- hotspots in town can be determined.

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