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Conservation projects

For a lot of species, Dartmoor Zoo’s environment differs greatly from that of their natural, wild habitat.

Even though we do everything we can to mimic their natural habitats, this may influence animals that are adapted to the challenges of the wild. Therefore, a large proportion of the research carried out at Dartmoor Zoo focuses on understanding how the captive environment may influence the animals, and where appropriate, how this influence can be minimized.  

For example, some studies investigate whether aspects of animal husbandry could be improves e.g. through diet, habitat, or veterinary care.  

Other topics include the effect of visitors on animals and vice versa, evaluation of the effectiveness of education tools and visitor awareness of native species. Animal cognition is a key aim to study for our research team and exploring animal humour and intelligence.  

Before any research takes place there are significant legal consideration that must be considered when undertaking research on zoo animals. Our researchers cannot carry out intrusive studies which may cause distress to the animals. Proposals to carry out research within our zoo are carefully reviewed by the collection and assessed in terms of ethics as well as quality of science and the logistics of gathering data.  

Dartmoor Zoo Hedgehog Rescue – ‘Prickly Hedge Lodge’

In 2021, Dartmoor Zoo opened a Hedgehog Rescue, also known as ‘Prickly Hedge Lodge’.

Our team converted an existing building into a rehabilitation facility to care for up to 20 sick or injured hedgehogs at a time before their release back into the wild.

Sadly, hedgehogs are now classed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, with over a third of hedgehogs being lost since the millennium.

Prickly Hedge Lodge is vital for the long-term survival of the native population, particularly in rural areas where their decline is believed to be most rapid, and contributes to research and raising awareness.

Hedgehog Information:

The British hedgehog is one of the most easily recognisable of Britain’s wild mammals. These animals can be found in almost all areas of Britain expect some of the Scottish Islands, they also seem to be absent from wet areas and pine forests. Hedgehogs are also not a massive fan of uplands or mountainside due to the lack of food and suitable nesting areas. Hedgehogs are very adaptable little creatures and can survive surprisingly well within our cities.  


These animals are mainly insectivores meaning that their diet mainly consists of insects such as beetles, caterpillars and earthworms. If you have some resident hedgehogs in your garden, you can provide them a ‘top up’ meal, the best food to give them is a good quality meaty cat or dog food and cat complete biscuits. You must also make sure that fresh water is always available.  

DO NOT FEED bread and milk as this can be very harmful to hedgehogs. Cows milk can be fatal to them! 

How to help hedgehogs in your garden:

  • Make your garden a hedgehog highway – make sure that hedgehogs can get in and out of your garden
  • Watch out for water – if you have a pond in your garden, make sure there is an easy way for hedgehogs to get in and out
  • Do not use slug pellets – not only does this remove food for the hedgehogs, but it can be fatal
  • Check long grass before mowing or strimming 
  • Keep netting off the ground 
  • Do not give them milk – instead give them fresh water 
  • Keep your garden a little untidy – they especially like piles of leaves or branches 
  • Check your recycling – make sure to crush cans and cut plastic rings as these can be hazardous to small mammals

Tips on what to do if you find a hedgehog and feel it may need a helping hand: 

  • If you find a hedgehog which is visibly injured, please take it straight to your local vets, leaving details of where you found it. The vet will then treat it and contact a hedgehog rescue when it is on the mend. 
  • If you see a hedgehog wandering around, watch it for a while and see what it does for a short time. Put a low-sided bowl or water down near it and some dried or wet cat/dog food (non-fish), to see if it is searching for food and water. Please do not pick up a healthy-looking hedgehog unless you have concerns. 
  • Hedgehogs are nocturnal so if you see one out during the day this may indicate a problem. Please ring us to get some more advice.
  • If you are concerned about the hedgehog or need to take it to the vet or to our rescue centre (after phoning), use gardening gloves to scoop it up and place inside a high-sided cardboard box (hedgehogs can climb well). Make sure to place an old towel in the bottom for it to hide in and keep warm (or plenty of newspaper if you don’t have any towels). Offer it fresh water and cat/dog wet or dry food. Make sure to keep the environment around them as quiet and dark as possible.  
  • If you accidentally uncover a hibernating or sleeping hedgehog, please do not move it. Cover it over again and leave it to sleep. You may want to put some water and some cat/dog wet or dry food out nearby in case you have woken it up and it comes out of hibernation.  
  • In order to survive hibernation, hedgehogs need to weigh more than 600g+. In Autumn, if you see one that is looking small, weigh it, using gardening gloves to pick it up. If it is under 600g, please ring us to get some more advice. Although small hedgehogs will go into hibernation, they will not have enough fat reserves to see out the winter and therefore will not wake up.  

Need advice?

If you need advice, please call our team on 01752 837645. We will be able to tell you if we have capacity to take the hedgehog into our care or not. Please do not turn up onsite with a hedgehog without speaking to a member of staff first.