DENMARK: The world’s oldest hedgehog, Thorvald, a 16-year-old hedgehog from Europe, has broken the previous record by seven years.
The male hedgehog lived in the middle of Denmark, close to Silkeborg. The director of the Danish Hedgehog Project who discovered Thorvald, Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen of Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), said she was shocked to learn how old he was.
“I cried tears of joy that I was holding an individual that had lived for 16 years. The news is excellent for conservation. Under the right conditions, hedgehogs can live for 16 years – amazing. All my colleagues were laughing at me because they thought I was being so emotional,” she claimed.
Researchers received the bodies and used a method similar to counting tree rings to determine the age of the deceased by measuring the growth lines in their jawbones.
This study is important since hedgehog populations are declining in many European nations due to habitat damage, intensified agriculture, accidents involving vehicles, and population fragmentation. In just 20 years, rural populations in some parts of the UK have decreased by as much as 75%.
Thorvald had infected bite wounds on his stomach and back; the infection had also caused his penis to become extremely swollen. “It was the largest hedgehog penis I’d ever seen,” Rasmussen said, adding that the hedgehog was otherwise healthy, implying that the mammals could live for much longer than 16 years.
However, the average age of the animals studied was two, with a third of hedgehogs dying before age one. If hedgehogs can get over the challenging first years, they could live long lives and produce offspring for several breeding seasons.
In July, when men and women travel great distances in search of partners, more than half of all fatalities occur while crossing roadways. 22 per cent of those recovered by the public died at rehabilitation facilities from natural causes, and 22 per cent died in the wild.
Hedgehogs’ metabolism slows during the winter, which causes a reduction in or complete cessation of bone growth, making it possible to age hedgehogs by counting the growth lines on their jaw bones. One year is represented by one line.
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