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London Hedgehogs Are Proof That Natural Selection Exists

There’s a very good reason as to why two hedgehogs were used to front a large road safety campaign way back in the late nineties.

You know the one: it had a clever jingle based around the trucker song, King Of The Road. It was brilliant. [Note from Ed. – Why don’t adverts do amazing jingles anymore?]

The two hedgehogs waxed lyrical about the wonders of looking left and right, teaching legions of children everywhere the virtues of not getting knocked down by cars. The spikey animal was designated as the perfect fit for the campaign, largely because they’re morbidly prone to getting squashed by oncoming vehicles.

It’s sad, but it’s a fact: when it comes to roads and cars, hedgehogs are idiots. The once common UK critter has found its numbers in steep decline over the last 60 years, with the London population hit particularly hard - both figuratively and literally.

It doesn’t matter how steep the congestion charge is, heavy traffic in the capital will always be prevalent and with that comes hedgehog squashing. Unless you’re a hedgehog that lives in Regents Park that is. The Regent’s Park hogs are different. In fact they’re not just different, they’re street smart. They probably swarm around like bristly biker gangs calling themselves the Regency Pack, they’re that switched on.

The Regency Pack (as they will hereby by known) have taught themselves that roads mean bad things and that they should be avoided at all costs, even when foraging for delicious food. They have in effect, 'evolved'. Which doesn’t sound like that much of a biggy, but when you consider that the other four Royal Parks in London – St Jame’s, Hyde and Green Park, along with Kensington Gardens, have a hedgehog population of zero, it’s astonishing.

In the seventies, hedgehogs were a booming feature of London’s parks, but now it’s only The Regency Pack left and evidence would suggest that it’s because they avoid roads. Clare Bowen of the Royal Parks Foundation said: “We’ve tagged a number of animals and we’ve got a very good idea of where they are going. We don’t have any indication of them leaving the park at all or crossing any of the main roads.

“We don’t have any records of squashed hedgehogs around Regent’s Park. All this would suggest they steer clear of busy roads.”

There you have it. Proof that hedgehogs have evolved, or at least adapted their behaviour due to environmental stimuli. Regent’s Park is essentially Hedgehog mecca, the real life equivalent of White Deer Park of Animals of Farthing Woods fame.

Or, in a scary way, it’s the hedgehog equivalent of the woods at the end of Planet Of The Apes that become the utopian training ground for their inevitable spikey uprising.

[Image: Rex]