The Hedgehog's Dilemma

Hugh Warwick

The Hedgehog's Dilemma

“Is this a ridiculous question? After all, surely everyone knows what a hedgehog is – there is no mistaking the small, brown spiny mammal for anything else, unless, maybe, you are drunk and confuse it with a porcupine. Which is not a relative, by the way. Not at all. Porcupines are rodents, like rats and squirrels; hedgehogs are insectivores, related to moles and shrews.

And it is very unlikely that any of us is going to stumble upon a tenrec as we trundle around the garden, unless we have relocated to Madagascar and are very lucky, as they are quite rare. The spines on a tenrec do not denote a close kinship either; they illustrate the wonders of 'convergent evolution', where different animals end up with similar characteristics, despite springing from different roots.”

The passage above comes from one of our Christmas presents, a wonderful little book titled The Hedgehog's Dilemma. Written by British environmentalist and photographer Hugh Warwick, it's a delightful work about an appealing little animal. Warwick's love of these small creatures leads him on an extensive quest to discover the habits and habitats of hedgehogs; he writes of them with passion and humor. Subtitled A Tale of Obsession, Nostalgia, and the World's Most Charming Mammal,  The Hedgehog's Dilemma brings to the fore a great deal of information about these universally appealing little characters.

“Manifestations of hedgehog love are manifold.

I think it is becoming quite clear that it is impossible to have a purely 'natural' history of hedgehogs, at least with me at the helm. Hedgehogs and people are inextricably linked; it it not just me who has been seduced. Hundreds, possibly thousands of people are active hedgehog carers, taking sick and injured animals in and patching them up for release. In fact, if it were not for them, I would not have been required to get quite so up-close personal with Nigel and his colleagues – and then what would have become of me?

Take a look around your area and the chances are high that there will be a hedgehog carer nearby. A seemingly marginal activity is actually quite an industry. This is not a new phenomenon. There have always been people who will take pity on a lame or stranded animal, and nurse it back to health before setting it free. But it was always an amateur activity – fairly random and hardly organized. So how has it come to the point that there are 600 carers registered with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society?”

Whether you're an animal lover or not, The Hedgehog's Dilemma is a fascinating tale. Quirky and humorous, full of amazing facts about this endearing  little creature, Warwick's book is a delight. Be sure to read all about it!


Copyright 2009, S. Halversen.
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