Hedgehog search on the highveld
SUN VALLEY – NATURE lovers of all ages gathered in Sun Valley for a night time hedgehog search to try and find evidence of the Southern African hedgehog (atelerix frontalis) living in the area.
The search was a joint effort between Jessica Artingstall, a postgraduate zoology student at the University of the Witwatersrand and researcher for 50/50, and the Greater Kyalami Conservancy.
Artingstall explained that her masters thesis was based on gathering evidence of hedgehogs living in urban areas. This included finding out where in Johannesburg the animals existed as well as studying their behaviour, habits and adaptability since not much was known about this camera-shy species.
The search started with a picnic at 548 Pony Lane in Sun Valley to warm up the chilly night. From there hedgehog enthusiasts and residents eager to help Artingstall with her research, walked along the roads and pathways in the area with torches and infrared gear to help them search for hedgehogs.
“You are most likely to find them [hedgehogs] at night or after rain storms,” Artingstall said.
Artingstall explained that while hedgehogs were known to exist in Midrand and Kyalami, sightings of them were becoming less common. “Although hedgehogs live in urban areas, they tend to occur in the more sparsely populated areas, which makes us wonder whether they actually are able to adapt to urban environments,” she said.
Sadly no hedgehogs were spotted, but Artingstall did find a hedgehog burrow which suggests their presence in the area.
Artingstall is appealing to residents to report any sightings of the animal to her, as well as details of when and where the hedgehog was spotted.
“The Southern African hedgehog usually has a dark underbelly and is different to other hedgehogs because they have five toes on their back foot instead of four,” she said.