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How Hedgehogs Destroy New Zealand: Thorny Enemies of the People
How Hedgehogs Destroy New Zealand: Thorny Enemies of the People

In New Zealand, authorities are trying in vain to get rid of hedgehogs. Lovely animals were brought into the country many years ago by the British colonialists, they awakened in them nostalgic memories of their homeland. Since then, the population of these animals has grown to enormous proportions. There are no predators in the country that would regulate it in a natural way. Now hedgehogs are literally destroying local flora and fauna. The government is trying to fight the problem. They try to catch thorny hooligans. They are hunted and hunted. The difficulty lies in the fact that few people want to do such a thing. After all, hedgehogs are so cute!

Experts sound the alarm

“They totally spit on the food chain! These animals wander blissfully through our forests and gardens. At the same time, they can eat just an incredible amount of representatives of the local fauna,”experts say. Researchers have calculated that in just a day, one hedgehog eats about six dozen ueta crickets. These are rare insects found only in New Zealand. In addition, thorny settlers eat not only locusts and lizards, but also eggs of rare birds. By doing this, they endanger the very existence of many species of animals.

British colonialists brought hedgehogs to New Zealand

Hedgehogs were included in the list of pests by the New Zealand authorities along with rats. The struggle with these animals is complicated by the fact that many cannot overcome the psychological barrier. Hedgehogs look so cute that people cannot destroy them.

Scientists have even come up with a very exotic solution to the problem. They advise to collect all the hedgehogs and send them back to their homeland. In Great Britain, they are actively fighting for their preservation. Little pubs in the gardens are built for thorny cuties and even special recreation parks are created for them.

Scientists propose to collect all the hedgehogs and send them back to the UK

Hedgehogs Invaders

Such species, which are forcibly placed in an unusual environment for them, as a rule, threaten the stability of local ecosystems. In order to deal with the negative consequences of such human actions, you need to thoroughly understand the issue. For example, thanks to the research of scientists, many interesting details from the life of hedgehogs have emerged. When hedgehogs found themselves in new conditions for themselves, they "forgot" their usual asociality. Animals have become more willing to spend the night in common nests. In addition, thorny animals not only included the fruits of local plants in their diet, but almost completely replaced their usual animal food.

Hedgehogs reminded the British of their homeland

When immigrants from England brought hedgehogs to New Zealand at the end of the 19th century, they could not, of course, imagine how it would end up. Hedgehogs protected their gardens from snails and harmful insects and reminded them of a distant homeland. Thorny predators have spread across the country and began to threaten the local fauna.

Hedgehogs were declared enemies of the people in New Zealand

New Zealanders are now trying to preserve representatives of the already significantly impoverished island fauna and began to tightly control the number of introduced animals. Scientists are simultaneously studying the peculiarities of their way of life in their new homeland. Researchers often find out very unexpected details about animals from Europe. For example, a few years after the destruction of ermines on the islet of Rangitoto near the city of Auckland, a male of this animal was captured.Genetic analysis showed that this animal is not the original inhabitant of the island, which survived the destruction of its fellows. The animal moved here from the mainland. At the same time, the ermine was able to swim as much as three kilometers across the sea! This species has never had such achievements before. In the same way, a lot of new things become known about hedgehogs.

In New Zealand, hedgehogs have acquired a ton of new habits

Mariano Rodríguez Recio, at the University of Otago in Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand, has a long history of hedgehog biology. He caught 27 adults (20 males and 7 females) and hung GPS transmitters on them, which recorded all their movements. All the hedgehogs were then recaptured and the equipment was removed. Then it turned out that most of the thorny animals slept in their nests during the day in whole companies. Although these animals are loners.

What changes have New Zealand hedgehogs undergone in comparison with European relatives

Hedgehogs' nests are very interestingly arranged. They look like a shock of fallen leaves. Usually nests are surrounded by a whole network of paths. The hedgehog uses them to deliver food to his house. Contrary to popular belief, hedgehogs do not prick food and leaves on their needles, but carry all objects by grabbing them with their mouths. For wintering, hedgehogs build more impressive structures, and summer nests are usually not very large. Moreover, they do not always do it on the ground. Their structures are also found on trees.

Hedgehogs nest

Thorny animals are very jealous of their houses. All attempts of congeners to enter someone else's nest are very aggressively suppressed. Cases when several adult hedgehogs peacefully coexist within the same nest are more rare than a rule. Experts say that several hedgehogs can winter in one nest only when the choice of suitable places is limited. In addition, the advantages of a secure hiding place should outweigh all the disadvantages of constant quarrels, fights, and even cases of cannibalism. Examples of such coexistence can often be observed in captivity.

According to Dr. Rezio, the hedgehogs that got to New Zealand have changed their habits. After all, they ended up in not very familiar places for themselves, abundant in food and not teeming with predators. Over time, they came to the conclusion that they began to settle in other people's nests, without wasting time and effort on building their own. The hosts also did not waste energy on conflicts with intruders. The question of whether such neighbors are relatives or are they just the first animals that came across, scientists have not yet figured out.

Such neighborhood with congeners in summer "apartments" is not the only unique acquired feature of hedgehogs in New Zealand. These animals have changed their food preferences. If European hedgehogs are almost completely carnivorous. In their diet, plant foods occupy a very modest place. New Zealanders, on the other hand, have made plant foods the basis of their diet. The hedgehogs especially liked the local berries.

New Zealand shrub Acrothamnus colensoi, the fruits of which were to the taste of hedgehogs

Along with other imported animals, European hedgehogs can replace the extinct or reduced numbers of local frugivores, helping the plants to disperse. Experts say that the diet of those hedgehogs that live in mountainous areas has changed dramatically. It is quite dry there and the animals simply do not have enough moisture. Thorny animals do great harm in the valleys. It is there that they try to get rid of them.

Most of all harm from hedgehogs in the valleys

Cute little animals

There are a lot of examples when animals change their habits so much and discover previously unknown abilities in themselves when they find themselves in new conditions. Researchers will continue to conduct a number of experiments to finally clarify this issue. Scientists want to study more deeply the uncharacteristic habits of hedgehogs in New Zealand, not content with information about their way of life at home. The data obtained to date already allow us to conclude that the new habits are not caused by genetics, but by a change in the usual habitat.

Experts will continue to research changes in the behavior of hedgehogs in New Zealand

In the meantime, the country is struggling not only with thorny pests, but with its own prejudices about what kind of hedgehogs are infinitely cute …

If you love animals, read our other article on how other animals that humans don't like can be cute too: rats create miniature paintings that are snapped up on the Internet in the blink of an eye.

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