Hedgehog 'foster carer' calls for better education
- Credit: HEATHER JOHNSON
An adoptive mother of African pygmy hedgehogs is urging people to consider carefully when buying one.
It followed a report from a rescue centre that is being overwhelmed with calls from people unable to care for them.
Heather Johnson, of Chatteris, is part of a network of foster carers from the National Exotic Hedgehog Rescue Service that rehomes the exotic creatures.
“You’ll be amazed how cruel people can be,” Heather said.
“People will pay a breeder for a baby hedgehog because they’re cute and adorable, and while they can make fantastic pets, it’s important owners have the time, money and knowledge of how to look after them correctly.
“They need live food, daily handling and specialist equipment, not to mention they’re nocturnal creatures.
"I currently look after one called Dumbledore, and he came to me after someone attempted to release him into the wild – that’s certain death because he needs to be kept at 22 degrees – while another was kept in a hamster cage!
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Heather recently gave a series of talks to children, to commemorate National Hedgehog Week, to inform them that caring for an African pygmy is a life-changing decision.
While Heather wants to encourage affection and enthusiasm for the animals, she also wants to ensure they fall into the correct hands:
“It’s sad for Dumbledore and all the other rescued hedgehogs, as they needn’t be in this position if people were aware of their responsibilities.
"If anyone asks for advice about owning one, I always point them to the rescue centre because there are so many hedgehogs up for adoption as a result of an ill-considered decision.”
The National Exotic Hedgehog Rescue Service, which is a not-for-profit organisation and relies solely on donations, has a strict adoption policy.
Heather said: “The rescue centre is stringent and has a robust application criteria. If someone wants to be an adoptive parent, that individual needs an approved set-up, such as quality food, vivarium and heat lamp, before granting that person permission to adopt an African pygmy.”
For more information, visit the National Exotic Hedgehog Rescue’s website – www.homelesshogs.co.uk – or the RSPA’s designated page about owning an African pygmy.