Your typical urban planning conversation might cover cars, sidewalks, and eyes on the street. One thing it almost definitely leaves out? Hedgehogs. But meet Michel Birkenwald, a jeweler and hedgehog enthusiast who spends his free time creating hedgehog crossings through urban walls and generally making London a more hedgie-hospitable city.
This Sunday @BarnesHedgehogs we are cutting approx 20 holes sponsored by Zac Goldsmith MP, get your garden ready for spring cut a hole in your fences for our favourite mammal . If you need help contact me ( Barnes only ) #richmond #uk #london #wildlife pic.twitter.com/g8zRHM8GEr— Barnes Hedgehogs (@BarnesHedgehogs) February 13, 2018
“I am just an average guy who decided to help one of our most adorable mammals,” says Birkenwald, a jeweler by trade and founder of hedgehog advocacy group Barnes Hedgehogs, told Atlas Obscura.
Members of the club find appropriate ways to connect the shrubby green spaces that hedgehogs love—typically by drilling softball-sized holes through fences and walls. They leave behind an easy-to-read sign identifying the hole as a hedgehog passage so it won’t unintentionally get closed up.
The U.K. loves its hedgehogs, but the numbers of these cute creates have steadily dwindled from roughly 30 million in the 1950s to under 1 million today. The British Hedgehog Preservation Society and People’s Trust for Endangered Species urgently promote connecting passages like Birkenwald has been doing, stating that “ensuring hedgehogs can pass freely through your garden is the most important thing you can do to help them.”