The last surviving colony of hedgehogs in central London is under threat from the HS2 railway, campaigners fear.
Between 40 to 50 hedgehogs living in Regent’s Park face having one of their favourite habitats – the London zoo car park – commandeered by HS2 as a lorry park.
The UK’s hedgehog population has seen a “worrying” decline over the last 25 years. Regent’s Park is the only central London park with a breeding population but it is regarded as “isolated and extremely vulnerable”, according to The Royal Parks.
Campaigners are to petition Parliament after newly-published HS2 documents said “there will be an increased risk of hedgehogs being hit by vehicles during the construction” of the line into Euston. The car park has been identified as one of three “hedgehog hotspots”.
Marian Kamlish, of the Friends of Regent’s Park, said: “The whole thing has become extremely worrying. HS2 first wanted to commandeer the car park in 2013. At that point, nobody knew about the hedgehogs, but in 2014 an anonymous donor gave the Royal Parks money for a hedgehog survey.
“You would now think they would say: ‘We better not use the car park’, but oh no. You have got a HGV and you have got a hedgehog. Is the lorry going to hoot and the hedgehog move? Of course it won’t. It’s going to be completely squished.”
The Mayor’s father Stanley Johnson, who lives nearby, has asked London zoo’s owners ZSL to ensure their global conservation work includes action “to do something for the little creatures on its own site”.
A ZSL spokeswoman said: “It is our priority at ZSL London Zoo to protect the population of hedgehogs that reside in the zoo’s car park area of Regent’s Park.
“We are currently in discussion with HS2 to get an understanding of their suggested mitigation measures to protect the hedgehogs, and any alternative options that are available.”
Earlier this year, Royal Parks Foundation researchers, in conjunction with the BBC’s Springwatch programme, fitted the hedgehogs with GPS tracking devices. This found that the hogs travelled up to a mile at night, avoiding the park’s sports pitches in preference to foraging in shrubberies and hedges and nesting in dense undergrowth.
Subject to parliamentary approval, work is due to start on HS2 in 2017 and last until 2033. The £43 billion scheme would like London and Birmingham before extending north to Manchester and Yorkshire.
HS2 spokesman Ben Ruse said: “Environmental protection is a cornerstone of the HS2 project and we take our commitment to preserving wildlife habitat extremely seriously.
“Here, the protection of hedgehogs will be a key consideration in the design for the lorry holding area and of any replacement parking that may be required.
“We are working with the Royal Parks, ZSL and others to understand concerns and explore what further action may be required. Our stated aim is for no overall loss in biodiversity to result from the construction of the railway.”