The winner of the huge “like contest”, the one who got the Animal of the Month title, is the animal, who reminds you sometimes of a small spiky ball, a four-legged little creature, the Northern white-breasted hedgehog. If you visit the Budakeszi Wildlife Park, you can meet with not only one, but three of them here. Their spokesman is Hami, the zoo educational hedgehog, who not only loves his belly but standing in the spotlight also.
Hello Hami! If I’m correct, we are still in time before you go into hibernation. Would you be so kind to introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello! Greetings to all of our readers! Hihi – giggles. You are so correct in that I do love my belly. If I could, I would eat all day long, but then I couldn’t bring the best of me, on the zoo educational programs. By the way, I’m Hami, and I live in the Wildlife Park, for two years now. I just love being among people, because there’s always something to do. On top of that, I get free hands to let my artistic side to shine. I don’t get along well with other hedgehogs, but that’s just the “hedgehog personality”: we are solitary creatures, we only look for each others’ company in the breeding season.
I have to admit you, I did a small research on you, at your caretaker, Ingrid. Is that true, that you got in the Park from the street?
Yeah, that’s true! On a late autumn day, somewhere in October, people from the neighborhood took me in. It was pretty cold out there, I was born later than usual and I was way too small to be able to survive the hibernation and the winter by myself. My spikes were yet too soft to be able to defend myself. Luckily here, in the Wildlife Park, in a few weeks, I gained some weight and I defeated the winter too.
Cold weather! That reminds me, that soon is the time of hibernation. Usually, when do you go to hibernation?
Guess what! I don’t really go deep hibernation, because here, in the office – where my hedgehog residence is – it’s always really nice and warm. The temperature never drops below 15 °C, and there is always plenty of food I can eat. In nature, is different! Hedgehogs, who live outside, don’t find enough nutrition on the cold days, so they use hibernation to survive these months. During this period, their metabolism and heart rate slows down dramatically. My two hedgehog fellas in the outside enclosure, as soon as they feel the cold, they run in their warm, little hedgehog den as fast as they can, roll themselves into a nice spiky ball, and then they stick out their nose only if they are really hungry.
And they don’t come out even if they are really hungry?
Not at all! This what hibernation is about. We are not a fan of the cold so much, that we can take long months without food and water. We are not superheroes, we have a well-structured plan for that. From the late summer-September, we start to tank our little hedgehog bodies with plenty of food. We eat everything that gets in our way: insects, vegetables, fruits, eggs but we are even able to catch and eat a smaller colubrid! At this time, we don’t care about our hourglass-shape, we are more into a sphere shape. We only care about eating as many vitamins, nutrients and calories as we can. We are able to reach even 1-1.5 kg as adults.
But if I am correct, you don’t like all kinds of food either…
Right, that’s correct! We should avoid milk because we are lactose intolerants and we can get digestive disorders from it. Strange, but we can digest cottage cheese. (And I really like it!) Cottage cheese is not only delicious but good fat and calcium source. But is somebody really wants to be kind to us, you can give us wet or dry dog or cat food, mealworms, superworms or tiny fish. (wink) We all love these!
Would you tell us something about what are you doing when you are not hibernating? What are you doing in the warm, summer days?
My wild fellas during the day are a little boring because they are sleeping. The real “hedgehog life” starts at night, when they go searching for food. They love food so much, that they are able to walk kilometers to have a nice feast. Our eyesight is not the best, so we are mostly following our nose.
And how are your days going Hami?
I’m a little different than my wild hedgehog relatives. In the daytime, I often go on shows with Ingrid and Ádám. It’s possible, that you already saw me in your school or kindergarten! I really love these days! But before you would think, my nights are boring, I tell you a little secret. When people from the office go home, I click open my hedgehog residences’ door and I go for an adventure in the office. I say hi to Titi, the magpie then I look for a cool hide to cuddle up in. Once for example, I chewed open the flour bags, and I dig myself in the flour. Cool hide ha?
You are a big troublemaker Hami! We didn’t talk about your look yet. What can we know about your spikes?
Oooh, those are really interesting! Did you know, that when we born, our spikes are still really soft and almost see-through? And as we grow, they harden up?
Yes, I heard about it. If I remember right, those are modified hairs.
And they are made out of keratin, like your hair or nails. After they get hard, they are a perfect armor. We just have to roll it around ourselves, and no one has the bravery to touch us. But there are always exceptions. If the Eurasian eagle-owl catches us, we don’t have much chance against its huge talon. But time by time, some fox tries to catch us and sometimes they can succeed. But we have another trick against predators. For that, we need all kinds of stinky, dirty things, that we can chew up and mix it with our saliva. We spread that mixture all over our spikes, and from all the bacteria that’s in that cocktail, our spikes turn into poisonous.
Besides the animals, there’s something else that can harm you?
Honestly yes, there are. During our midnight roams, a lot of roadkill can happen. We can’t really pay attention to the cars, because we are too much into looking for food. Even if we notice the car, we can’t run away, all that we try to do is curl up into a spiky ball. So the best would be, if you, people could pay more attention. The other huge danger for us is the leaf burnings in autumn. A lot of hedgehogs find their winter den already in October, in a pile of leaves made by humans and they don’t even have a clue, that there is an occupant of their leaves, what they are planning to burn up in reason to clear it up from their garden. We ask you kindly, don’t bother those pile of leaves that you didn’t clear up until October because there is a big chance, that a hedgehog is already sleeping in it.
Thank you, Hami, that you told us the secrets of hedgehogs. Is there still something you want to tell us?
Just that I wait everybody on my shows and educational programs in the Wildlife Park. Oh, and follow our Facebook page also, because as you know, I am the star of the month, so you can learn more about me there! 🙂