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Hedgehog habitats have been disappearing, as well as food sources, pushing them to take bigger risks, Source: City of Leuven

Leuven wants to protect hedgehogs from robotic lawnmowers

Leuven wants to protect hedgehogs from robotic lawnmowers

According to local research, the hedgehog population had been halved between 2008 and 2018

Recently, the Belgian city of Leuven issued a plea to citizens to stop using their robotic lawnmowers at night - in order to protect local wildlife. According to the official statement, many of these lawnmowers lack motion or collision sensors and pose a serious risk to small hedgehogs foraging for food in the dark hours.

The number of hedgehogs has halved in 10 years

The campaign was provoked by research from Ghent University and Natuurpunt, a Flemish environmental organisation. According to the research, the number of hedgehogs has halved between 2008 and 2018.

The research attributes this decline to a number of factors, such as the disappearance of suitable hedgehog habitats and food sources. However, another factor exacerbating the situation is that the small habitats they do have are increasingly dangerous.

Hedgehogs are the most frequently reported roadkill casualties in the region for the last ten years. At the same time, Thomas Van Oppens, Leuven Alderman for Animal Welfare, explains that the little creatures suffer a horrific fate far too often while trying to find food in people’s gardens at night.

He was quoted in a press release, saying: “This is why we call on people from Leuven to only use their robotic lawnmowers during the day. That makes a big difference.”

Local tips to prevent accidents

Natuurpunt has decided to support Leuven’s campaign with extra expertise, as they have been advocating for the same goal for two years now. They have already laid out some tips on what to do to make lawns a safe place for hedgehogs and other small animals.

According to their advice, one of the best practices is to turn on robotic lawnmowers during the day, after making sure that there are no animals camping on the lawn. If there are, people can just use a kitchen mitten to remove them safely.

Furthermore, they also recommend lawnmowers with a low front edge, no more than 4.5 cm and a collision censor, so they can change course before they bump into something.

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