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Prince Charles has adopted three hedgehogs at Dumfries House, part of the Prince’s Foundation in Scotland.
Three hedgehogs, thought to be four-months-old, made their home in the grounds of the estate in Ayrshire earlier this week.
The gardening team at the house partnered with nearby Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Centre to reintroduce the animals to a more natural setting.
Hedgehogs are in decline in the UK, with wildlife trusts reporting half the numbers across the country compared to the 1950s.
A post on Facebook by Dumfries House explained: “The hedgehogs, who are thought to be four months old, have taken up residence in the estate’s five-acre Queen Elizabeth Walled Garden after being nursed back to a healthy weight by volunteers from Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Centre.
“Although the hedgehogs will be free to roam the walled garden at their leisure, one of our dedicated volunteers has made two bijou houses for them to use for shelter and hibernation.”
Julie Dougall, an educational gardener based in the organic-certified Kauffman Education Garden, was on hand to welcome the hedgehogs.
She said: “I just think it's great to get as much wildlife into the estate as we can, and we became aware that Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue, a brilliant Ayrshire charity, were looking to rehome some hedgehogs. We welcomed one male and two female hedgehogs earlier this month, and I'm sure they'll be great for the education of children we typically have here on the estate, particularly when they're learning about the food cycle.
“We're trying to bring a biodiversity of wildlife back into the estate. If the hedgehogs breed, great. The more, the better! It would be excellent for the species and for the estate. The education garden is organic and they're basically a pesticide that doesn't harm the soil, taking care of bugs, slugs, and snails.”
The team has not ruled out rehoming more hedgehogs either.
Dougall added: “We'd love to give more hedgehogs and other rescued wildlife a home on the estate.
“It would be good to allow schoolchildren to name our new residents, as it brings them closer to the estate and helps them become involved.”
Reports in 2018 suggested there were less than one million hedgehogs left in the UK. In the 1950s, it was estimated there were 30 million.
Counting hedgehogs is tricky because they are nocturnal and solitary creatures.
In October this year, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said it was not looking at giving hedgehogs extra legal protection but remained “concerned about the decline in hedgehog numbers in England”.
Defra has published advice on how to make gardens hedgehog friendly and there is work going on through the 25 Year Environment Plan to protect them.
The Scottish SPCA had to appeal for food to help feed underweight hedgehogs this year. Hedgehogs can’t hibernate if they are under a certain weight.
Dumfries House became part of the Prince’s Foundation in 2018. The Prince’s Foundation comprises of four of Prince Charles’s charities, and aims to support people to create community.
The stately home was saved by Charles’s intervention in 2007, and is known for its collection of Thomas Chippendale furniture.
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