Would you like to help track UK hedgehogs?

Volunteers are needed to help sort artificial intelligence data to track the declining UK hedgehog population. 

The National Hedgehog Monitoring Programme launched to understand the declining numbers of UK hedgehogs population.

The number of UK hedgehogs has dropped by between 30% and 75% since 2000, according to the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. 

The National Hedgehog Monitoring Programme has been launched to first understand where and why hedgehogs are struggling and then put in place practical conservation measures. 

There are already over 300 cameras spread across 13 sites. In the next three years, 40 sites will be covered by more than 1,000 cameras. Each one is set to take a picture every time its sensors detect movement. 

How to get involved 

Trail camera, photo by NHMP.

The huge number of images means a special AI algorithm, developed at Liverpool John Moores University, will be used to take out any that do not have wildlife in them.  

Thousands of pictures will still need to be sorted by eye, which is why the project is appealing for volunteers to go onto the citizen science platform MammalWeb

The data generated will then be used to develop a robust estimate of how many hedgehogs there are in the UK, and how populations change annually. It means experts can work out just which places and habitats are best and worst for hedgehogs, and even what might be causing declines. 

Read more about how to volunteer here.

Fascinating and useful 

Dr Henrietta Pringle, National Hedgehog Monitoring Programme Coordinator at the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, said the first use of AI for a hedgehog conservation project would help produce the first reliable nationwide survey. 

A hedgehog captured on camera by the NHMP.

She added: “Before we can put practical conservation measures in place, we need to understand where they are and why they’re declining. 

“The results will also allow us to see regional and habitat differences, and identify what factors impact them in different places, which will not only be fascinating but also incredibly useful for their long-term conservation.” 

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