27 July 2012

Hedgehogs, Toads and Adders...

Froglife’s Communications Coordinator Sam Taylor has been chatting to author Hugh Warwick about his new book, and the idea of love in relation to animals and the natural world.

"At Froglife’s Tuppence a Toad evening with ZSL in October 2011, I was introduced to a bristly man with twinkly eyes and a tattoo of a hedgehog on his leg. As he was talking about his latest book, it slowly dawned on me who he was, and I interrupted him to blurt out ‘You’re Hedgehog Hugh!’ I promptly dragged him to meet my parents, who embraced him instantly as a member of the family.

It’s not that we have a soft spot for all men with beards and tattoos - we had recently read Hedgehog Hugh Warwick’s ‘A Prickly Affair’, a great piece of nature writing that is humorous, warm, personal and philosophical as well as factual and scientific. The book details Hugh’s love affair with hedgehogs, through his research and campaigning, and explores the lives of these bristly, bright-eyed animals.
Hedgehog Hugh Warwick meets a Toad
Hugh was decorated with a hedgehog tattoo (his “first and last tattoo”) as part of the ExtInked project, recruiting ambassadors to stand up for species at risk of extinction. Hugh and I were chatting at the toad event about a new quest he had undertaken – following declarations of love from other animal specialists, experts and enthusiasts, he embarked on a journey to meet the animal worthy of being his “second and last” tattoo. Last week, I was lucky enough to spend some time interviewing Hugh for the next edition of Natterchat, and hearing him talk about his new book at an event in Blackwells in Oxford.

'The Beauty in the Beast' details Hugh’s meetings with 15 wildlife obsessives, introducing him to the beauty, drama and daily lives of 15 British wildlife species. Having encountered bats, otters, water voles, badgers, dolphins and dragonflies, Hugh also meets Adders with expert Bernard Dawson and Common toads with educator Gordon MacLellan. The human characters are brought to life as vividly as the animals they introduce to Hugh. Sadly, the Badger Man Gareth Morgan passed away last week, and anyone who reads the book will mourn the loss of this passionate wildlife lover.

The book raises interesting questions about human relationships with other animals, and what makes someone switch on to the beauty of the natural world. Hugh’s search is for the wildlife equivalent of ‘the boy or girl next door’, someone you get to know and fall in love with rather than an out-of-reach, 'celebrity' animal like a lion or a polar bear.  Quoting Stephen Jay Gould, the book examines love or empathy for wildlife as a motivator for conservation action, exploring the idea that we will save the things we love and we love the things that we get close to.

I won’t give the end away - it’s a brilliant read, and really brings home the diversity of weird and wonderful creatures (and people!) we still have in the UK. It also resonates with Froglife’s work, helping new people come face-to-face with amphibians and reptiles with the aim of engaging them in saving these incredible animals and their habitats."

Photo: Hugh Warwick

23 July 2012

Another Great Leap for Amphibians in Glasgow!

Froglife has recently been awarded £74,000 of funding from Glasgow City Council’s Landfill Community Fund to continue our important work creating and restoring ponds across the city. This is excellent news for the city’s amphibian residents as it will allow us to continue the tremendous work of the Living Water Project, and turn 6 more green-space sites into havens for amphibians.

Froglife's Living Waters Project has been resoring and creating beautiful ponds across Glasgow and North Lanarkshire

The Living Water project previously created 20 new ponds and restored a further 27 across Glasgow. Project staff are now looking forward to getting stuck into the new sites, but as always will be looking for volunteers to lend a hand.

“This is another great step towards improving the city for amphibians and it has been brilliant to see people’s enthusiasm for what we are trying to achieve," says James Stead, Living Water Field Worker.  "The new sites are a really nice mix of urban parks, allotments, and local nature reserves and will offer plenty of opportunities for volunteers to help with building and surveying new ponds. We hope that by inspiring others about the work we do and the species we work with, this will create a lasting enthusiasm to protect and sustain the habitats which amphibians and reptiles depend upon.”

Volunteering your time not only benefits habitats and species, but enriches a community and brings us closer together

The pond plans for the 6 new sites (Queens Park, Festival Park, Bellahouston Walled Garden, Mansewood Park Allotments, Bishops Loch and Hurlet Hill) involve not just pond creation, but also creating toad ramps from a formal boating pond, relining ponds on allotments, and creating winter hibernation sites.

So much of our work couldn’t be completed without the dedication of volunteers and we hope you will join us again to help make a difference!

- The volunteer sessions are a great way to learn new skills, meet new people, get fit and have fun!
- All upcoming events are advertised on Froglife’s website here
- If you want to find out a bit more, or register your interest, you can email Iain.Maclean@froglife.org or call 07772 318950
- You could also come and meet the Froglife team at the Mansewood Park Allotment open day on 12th August 12:00-16:00, where we will be running a ‘Pond Doctor’ session to answer people’s pond questions.  Get in touch with Iain to find out more