A new hospital for hedgehogs has opened in eastern France, and is looking for volunteers to help care for the animals, many of whom are dehydrated and starving due to recent droughts and forest fires.
The hospital centre opened in Bussang, Vosges (Grand Est) in the summer, after five years of planning by qualified animal carer Pauline Ruffenach-Schweitzer, who is also President of the hedgehog care association Chez Risson.
A public investment payment of €20,000 enabled the centre to open, and it is now entirely dedicated to caring for hedgehogs that are injured, orphaned, in accidents, or in poor health.
Ms Ruffenach-Schweitzer told Le Parisien: “We now need to raise awareness among vets so that they send people to us. As soon as an animal is injured, we must go as quickly as possible.
“Theoretically we don’t travel [to patients], but we could do so if the person is unable to come to us.”
Every inpatient is supported with a personalised care plan, and different species are separated depending on their condition.
The youngest have a ‘nursery’ and an incubator, and there is also an operating room and quarantine area. The hospital has been in particular demand after a summer of droughts and forest fires.
"Many of our hedgehogs are dehydrated and hungry,” explained Ms Ruffenach-Schweitzer. “But they're going into a period where they need to fatten up. In the autumn, the females may have a late litter or a second litter, and the babies may be in trouble because there is not enough to eat."
The hospital can care for up to 50 hedgehogs at a time over its 100 square metre premises, but is seeking volunteers to help it operate at maximum capacity.
Ms Ruffenach-Schweitzer said: “We are looking for volunteers, especially to help with the release of the treated animals. Donations are also welcome to help with the costs of care.”
The centre also welcomes donations for key equipment, including inox plates, tick removers, sheets, soft or fleece fabric, watering cans, heated blankets, smoke detectors, and garden gloves.