The Hedgehog

The Hedgehog About Hedgehog: Hedgehog is an insectivorous spiny(needle-like anatomical structure) mammal of the subfamily Erinaceidae. These mammals have been on this land even before human evolution. However, there is no mention of them even in our folk tales.
Conservation Status:

  • IUCN Red List: Least Concern
  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule 4

Distribution: There are seventeen species of hedgehog found throughout parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and New Zealand. However, there are no hedgehogs native to Australia and America.

Hedgehog Species in India: Of the 17 species of hedgehog around the world, India is home to three:

  • Indian Long-eared or collared hedgehog
  • It is native to northern India and Pakistan.
  • They mainly follow their excellent sense of hearing and sense of smell for the hunt, as their eyesight is quite poor.
  • They are also very fast runners.
  • Indian hedgehog: It is native to India and Pakistan. It mainly lives in sandy desert areas but can be found in other environments.
  • Bare-bellied or Madras hedgehog
  • It was discovered in 1851. In Tamil, they are called mul eli – mul meaning thorn and eli meaning rat – or irmal eli aka cough rat.
  • In Tamil Nadu, it is used as an ingredient in traditional medicine, or in household remedies for coughs and rheumatism.

Characteristics:

  • They have short limbs and a body, low to the ground. Their most distinctive characteristic is the thousands of stiff, sharp thorns that cover their back and sides.
  • Nocturnal Mammals:
  • They are nocturnal mammals. It means they usually sleep in during the day and awaken to search for food at night.
  • They usually go into their burrows(hole or tunnel) and sleep continuously for two months to reduce their metabolic activity.
  • They don’t dig much but instead use burrows previously dug by other mammals, like pangolins.
  • Food Habits: Hedgehogs can eat one-third of their body weights in one night. Their favorite foods are insects, earthworms, snails, and slugs. It makes them a welcome guest in many suburban gardens, and they are even kept as a pet.

How are Hedgehog species in India different from other countries?

Hedgehogs in India are distinct in many ways. For instance, hedgehogs in the UK, Africa, and Central Asia hibernate in winter, but the ones in South India go into Estivation in summer instead. In South India, it is able to slow down its metabolism when food is scarce.

Estivation: It is a state when an animal goes into a dormant state during a hot period. It is to wait for passing water scarcity or harsh heat. Many desert creatures estivate

Threats to Hedgehog species in India: In the last 20 years, hedgehog species in India are on decline drastically due to habitat changes, development, and its capture for domestication or sale.

Significance of Hedgehogs: It is used as an ingredient in traditional medicine and also as a non-traditional medicine.

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