AI Joins the Quest to Save UK’s Hedgehogs

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In a groundbreaking approach to wildlife conservation, the United Kingdom is embarking on a unique project utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor hedgehog populations. This initiative, spearheaded by the National Hedgehog Monitoring Programme (NHMP), aims to gain insights into the current numbers of hedgehogs and the reasons behind their declining numbers.

Project Overview

By deploying camera traps in various environments such as urban parks, private gardens, woodlands, and farmlands, the project intends to capture images of hedgehogs in their natural habitats. These images will be analyzed by AI technology capable of distinguishing between wildlife and humans, ensuring that only hedgehog sightings are forwarded to human volunteers. These volunteers, or “spotters,” will then identify the images featuring hedgehogs and pass this information to analysts for further evaluation.

Fay Vass, Chief Executive of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS), emphasized the inclusivity of the program, stating that it offers a novel way for people from all walks of life to contribute to hedgehog conservation, regardless of their physical abilities or access to outdoor spaces.

The collaboration involves notable partners such as Nottingham Trent University, ZSL’s London HogWatch, Durham University, and MammalWeb, and is primarily funded by Natural England. Over three years, this partnership is set to provide essential data on hedgehog populations across different habitats, identifying factors contributing to their decline and informing conservation efforts.

Key Objectives and Expectations

Dr. Henrietta Pringle, the NHMP coordinator at the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), highlighted the pioneering nature of the study. It marks the first time a nationwide survey of hedgehog populations has been conducted with such rigor, potentially unlocking new conservation strategies based on year-over-year population data. This longitudinal approach is critical for understanding regional and habitat-specific impacts on hedgehog populations, thereby guiding effective conservation measures.

FAQ Section

Q: How does AI help in tracking hedgehogs? A: AI analyzes images from camera traps to distinguish hedgehogs from other wildlife and humans, streamlining the monitoring process.

Q: Can anyone become a spotter for the NHMP? A: Yes, the program is designed to be accessible to everyone, regardless of physical mobility or access to a garden.

Q: How will the project impact hedgehog conservation efforts? A: By identifying the areas and conditions under which hedgehogs are thriving or struggling, conservationists can implement targeted measures to support their populations. This could include habitat restoration, creating wildlife corridors, or mitigating threats from human activities.

Q: What is the duration of the National Hedgehog Monitoring Programme? A: The project is planned to run for three years, providing ample time to gather and analyze data across different seasons and years.


The innovative use of AI in the National Hedgehog Monitoring Programme represents a significant leap forward in wildlife conservation efforts. By harnessing technology to better understand hedgehog populations in the UK, this initiative not only aims to uncover the reasons behind their decline but also to mobilize a diverse range of participants in the conservation process. The data gathered will be invaluable in shaping future conservation strategies, ensuring that these beloved creatures continue to thrive across the country. As this project unfolds, it holds the promise of not only preserving hedgehogs but also pioneering new methodologies in the field of wildlife conservation.

Source: Theguardian

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