Large countries like the United States take it upon themselves to save large animals, like whales, but Switzerland, well, it has no oceans and hence no whales, so rescue efforts have to concentrate on animals that are more proportionate to the country’s small-scale size. Enter the hedgehog! It is small and adorable and perfect for Swiss wild animal lovers, but it is by no means the only animal for which Switzerland goes to great protective lengths. The Swiss consider themselves a civilized people, and as such, they try to make the world a better place for all—including all manners of creepy crawly creatures. For decades, the Swiss government and a multitude of privately funded animal protection organizations have attempted to safeguard the happiness and survival of every animal species on land, in the water, and in the air. Countless government programs are aimed at protecting native wildlife, costing taxpayers millions of Swiss Francs each year. Baby deer are protected through a program that pays farmers not to mow their meadows in the spring until the baby deer are old enough to follow their mothers into the woods. Millions have been spent on the construction of wildlife corridors over interstates and highways, specifically to guarantee safe passage to migrating species. And these corridors are not just simple meadows. They are carefully planted to blend into the natural surroundings to make them more appealing to the commuting critters. Still, the effectiveness of these corridors has been questioned by some, as it appears that some species refuse the free passageways and insist on trying to find a way past the wire-mesh fences lining many of the highways.
While the wildlife corridors across the interstates are intended for the larger animal species, the Swiss are by no means forgetting about the smaller denizens of their beautiful country. Rivers and streams Barriers for blocking a road during frog mating seasonhave been rerouted and rebuilt to improve conditions for amphibians, and during the amphibians’ mating season, when they must return to a body of water, some roads are closed to traffic to protect road-crossing frogs. And then there is the above-mentioned hedgehog. The Swiss “pro Igel” organization is dedicated to protecting hedgehogs through information campaigns aimed at reducing the dangers these cute, but prickly little creatures face from careless farming and gardening methods. The organization also appeals to motorists to be especially vigilant at night as hedgehogs tend to cross several roads each night in search of food. And the Swiss people have embraced the hedgehogs as one of their favorite native creatures, caring for them in their gardens and collecting hedgehog souvenirs en masse. It seems quite obvious then that the Swiss go to great lengths to protect their wildlife, and their efforts have yielded some remarkable results, not all of them entirely positive. Fifty years ago, wild boars, for example, were reclusive and rarely ever seen in Switzerland, but in the last twenty years, their numbers have increased so dramatically that they are now considered a major pest. They cause thousands of Francs worth of damage to crops each year despite some very creative attempts to keep them out of the fields. Some farmers have buried radios in their fields, which they play all night long to scare off the burrowing pigs, usually with little success. A herd of wild boars can easily turn over an entire field in one night and destroy the whole crop. Wild boars have also been responsible for many deadly accidents on country roads as well as interstates. As a result, the pendulum has swung back, and the government is now trying to reduce their numbers through targeted hunts. Oh well, you can’t win them all: let’s take wild boars off the list, but save bambi, the frogs, and cute little hedgehogs!
FYI: The German conservation organization NABU (Deutscher Naturschutzbund) declared the hedgehog the “Wild Animal of the Year 2009”: http://www.nabu.de/tiereundpflanzen/naturdesjahres/natur2009/10302.html (German only)
Further information: http://www.pronatura.ch/content/index.php?lang=1&mz=1 (Switzerland’s largest conservation organization)
http://www.pro-igel.ch/index.php?id=2 (Swiss organization to protect hedgehogs)
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wildschwein (wiki page about wild boars, in German)