Jimmy sadly now walks with a “crooked neck” after being “kicked around like a football” by a teenager who has since been prosecuted, while partner Huffy lost an eye after being entangled by a garden strimmer.
Throughout their rehabilitation the pair have been cared for by Sunderland based animal welfare charity Pawz for Thought. While due to their injuries the animals will never be released back into the wild, they were ready to find a new more permanent home and St Mary’s RC Primary School had the perfect residence for their pair at their recently constructed Hedgehog Sanctuary.
Head Boy Sam Pringle, 11, and Head Girl Elizabeth Mimi Maddison, 10, had the honour of releasing Jimmy and Huffy into their new home.
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Elizabeth said: “It was really exciting to meet the hedgehogs. It feels good to give them a home after how they have been mistreated. I’m really looking forward to looking after them. It’s very important to look after our wildlife as they are part of the world we live in.”
Sam added: “It’s horrendous to think someone would do this type of thing and it’s great to now see them somewhere safe. It was very exciting to release the hedgehogs. Wildlife and the environment is an important part of what we do at our school.”
The re-homing of the hedgehogs has been overseen by ecologist Julie Dyson who works as a volunteer at Pawz for Thought.
She said: “It’s really important we engage schools and children with wildlife and I feel it should be an important part of the curriculum. It’s amazing that the school wanted to get involved. The kids really enjoyed releasing the hedgehogs and it’s vital they learn about the environment and why it’s important to protect wildlife.
"Hopefully Huffy and Jimmy will have lots of hoglets which can be released into the wild at Backhouse Park.”
The pair will soon become a trio with a third hedgehog named Connie, who has a damaged shoulder from a strimmer, also set to be released into the sanctuary. Julie hopes the hedgehogs will help to educate the local community on what is fast becoming a diminishing population.
She added: “In the 1950s we had around 30 million hedgehogs and this is now down to around one million. In the last 20 years the population has reduced by around 50 per cent.”
The sanctuary, which has a fenced perimeter, hog house and natural logs and trees, was constructed by local firefighter Chris Smith along with dad, Ken, and uncles Bill and Harry. B&Q Durham also donated a shed, compost, plants and paint.
Chris said: “As a child I was inspired by people like David Attenborough to take an interest in wildlife and hopefully this sanctuary can inspire the children here today. This is an iconic British animal which needs to be conserved.”
Headteacher Martin Clephane added: “Children being around animals is fantastic for their well-being and really brings a smile to their faces. It’s a fantastic community project which has brought together lots of different groups.”