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Sunday, 20 January, 2002, 14:03 GMT
Prickly rarity saved from death
Bryony Hall with Alfie the hedgehog
Bryony Hall thought Alfie the hedgehog was a stone
A rare, blonde hedgehog that was facing almost certain death has been saved after being found by a 12-year-old girl.

The animal, one of a very small number to be found in the UK in the past 30 years, is to be handed over to a specialist care centre by the girl, Bryony Hall.

The prickly creature, which is not an albino despite its fair appearance, has skipped hibernation and is currently being raised in the comfort of Bryony's family home in Cambridge.

She at first thought white-spiked "Alfie", who unlike red-eyed albinos has brown eyes and dark skin, was a white stone.

Our cat doesn't really know what to make of him

Lilian Hall
Now, instead of bedding down outdoors to escape the winter frosts, "Alfie" is living in luxury with his own personal quarters in a guinea pig cage.

He is being fed on a diet of boiled eggs, roast chicken and cat food.

Jeanette Evans, of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, said blonde hedgehogs were rare because their colouring made them easy for predators to spot.

She said: "Blonde hedgehogs are a genetic variant. They are found in abundance only on the Channel Island of Alderney, where a pair was introduced in the 1960s.

"They die very young as they are so conspicuous to prey such as foxes and dogs.

"Their colouring also prevents them from conserving heat and they perish when the temperature drops.

"They are very, very rare and few have ever been spotted."

"Alfie" has ballooned from 310 grams, when he was found in November, to a healthy 840 grams during his stay at the Hall's home in Tiverton Way.

'Underweight and scrawny'

Bryony's mother Lilian said: "He is really cute and friendly. He takes food from our hands, which is quite unusual for a wild hedgehog.

"He was underweight and scrawny when Bryony found him in November and he would be dead by now if she hadn't rescued him.

"Our cat doesn't really know what to make of him and we were astonished when we looked on the internet and found out how rare he is."

Her father, Ellis added: "Unfortunately if he was outdoors during the night he would stand out like a lighthouse and would be eaten up.

"He's being well cared for and it's a delight to look after something so rare."

"Alfie" is soon to be re-homed at the Beds and Herts Hedgehog Rescue Centre in Bedfordshire.

There he is expected to live out a hedgehog's usual lifespan of eight years in the company of some of his darker coloured brethren.

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See also:

03 Aug 01 | Scotland
Hedgehogs 'a threat' to seabirds
07 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Hedgehog census takes to the roads
20 May 98 | UK
Jail for hedgehog killer
01 Jan 98 | Sci/Tech
Hedgehog threat to wading birds
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