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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 February, 2004, 12:43 GMT
Hedgehog cull alternative spiked
The alternative to the hedgehog cull is a none-starter
A wildlife charity which was planning to move hedgehogs from the Western Isles to the mainland as an alternative to a cull has shelved the project.

The People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) had been gearing up for the trial relocation.

But it has criticised Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), which runs the cull on North Uist, South Uist and Benbecula, because it would not provide funding.

SNH said paying for the study was a wrongful use of taxpayers' money.

The chief executive of the wildlife charity, Valerie Keeble, claimed the cost of the relocation project had quadrupled to 160,000, a bill which she said would be impossible to pay through current contributions.

Dr Keeble claimed the heritage body should have part-paid costs because it had agreed to a scientific study on the matter.

In an open letter to SNH she wrote: "SNH's intransigence in refusing to provide some financial backing is particularly disappointing as, in spite of the difficulties, we had secured at least half the monies required, a considerable achievement in such a short period.

It is our view that SNH has wasted valuable charity time and finance
Valerie Keeble
"We believe it is extremely short-sighted of SNH not to contribute."

Dr Keeble said her organisation and its scientific advisers spent a considerable amount of charitable resources on what turned out to be a "failed attempt to devise a proposal acceptable to both parties that could be implemented in practice".

She added: "It is our view that SNH has wasted valuable charity time and finances, delayed decision-making to the extent that it imperilled the possible implementation of plans and failed to keep the open mind it promised with regard to finding an alternative solution to this most difficult of problems."

According to PTES research, at least 1,000 hedgehogs would have to be killed every year for at least 15 years for the islands to be cleared of the animals.

Open minded

The cull, carried out to protect the Uist's wader bird population, caught 66 of the estimated 90 hedgehogs on the south end of North Uist and is to resume in April.

An SNH spokesman said the organisation believed there to be significant animal welfare problems associated with moving hedgehogs to the mainland - both for the Uist and mainland hedgehogs.

But he added: "We have however always remained open to being proved wrong on this. The offer of 60 animals for a trial translocation was made in this spirit.

"We are disappointed there is to be no trial, but the SNH board was adamant that it would not fund the exercise."

The body plans to cull hedgehogs on North Uist and Benbecula this coming spring, at a cost of about 300 per animal.

New hedgehog cull planned
16 Dec 03  |  Scotland
Hedgehog cull 'had support'
29 Oct 03  |  Scotland
Hedgehog cull comes to an end
23 May 03  |  Scotland
Cost of hedgehog cull defended
19 May 03  |  Scotland
Hedgehogs saved by animal charity
28 Apr 03  |  Shropshire

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