The hedgehog was brought to New Zealand by British settlers several centuries ago. Unlike Europe – where it is hunted by martens, foxes, badgers… and cars – the New Zealand hedgehog has little or no natural predators. As a result, they can reproduce undisturbed and move en masse through forests and gardens. In the meantime, they devour the native critters as if it were a sweet treat.
With the exception of a few species of bats, New Zealand does not have any native land mammals. The bird population has adapted to this by – like the kiwi – to settle on the ground and stop flying. When stoats, cats, sachets and rats were introduced to New Zealand, they immediately caused great damage. Rare insects were crushed, newly hatched chicks were killed, and bird eggs were swallowed.
And also the hedgehog now does more than his gluttonous thing. “The damage they are causing is becoming clearer and clearer,” said University of Otago researcher Nick Foster. “A single hedgehog can eat countless lizards, bird eggs and wetas (large crickets, note). One study found no less than 283 weta legs in a hedgehog stomach. This means that the animal devoured 60 of these crickets in just 24 hours.
To further limit damage to native species, New Zealand has now developed a plan to eradicate all hedgehogs by 2050. The plan will go into effect in July, using a combination of trapping, hunting and hunting. poison.
The only problem: no one knows exactly how many hedgehogs there are in the country. Local media say there are “more hedgehogs in New Zealand than in Britain”, and estimates range from two to four hedgehogs per hectare. “There was once a plan to catch all the hedgehogs alive and send them back to Europe, but that turned out to be impractical due to biosecurity, logistics and costs,” Foster said.
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