NOT many schoolgirls can count Sir David Attenborough among their biggest fans.
But hedgehog-loving Kyra Barboutis and Sophie Smith are among them. The 12-year-olds have been rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing the creatures for the past three years after reading about the alarming decline in the hedgehog population.
And they are in safe hands with the Stratford youngsters, who have so far helped more than 160 wild British hedgehogs.
Stratford Girls’ Grammar pupil Kyra has now been named a registered rehabilitator for the British Hedgehog Preserervation Society.
Along with support from fellow pupil Sophie, she also receives advice from many local vets.
And their backing does not stop there.
Kyra and Sophie recently received a letter from legendary wildlife broadcaster Sir David Attenborough which said: “I’m so glad you are doing so much to help hedgehogs. They need all the help they can get.”
And Channel 4’s Supervet Noel Fitzpatrick is also a fan.
He said: “Kyra and Sophie are true stars shining brightly for the animal kingdom.
“You are making a massive difference in a world that needs people like you to show the way.”
The pair – who were recently recognised with a Pride of Stratford Award – run Hedgehog Friendly Town, a project aiming to raise awareness of the rapidly declining hedgehog population, while also caring for poorly hedgehogs.
Kyra told the Observer: “The feeling you get when you release a happy, healthy hedgehog back into the wild again is amazing and makes all the hard work worth it .
“When you know you are the reason they are alive it’s pretty mindblowing. ”
And Kyra’s proud mum Helen has spoken about the hard, and often upsetting work the girls do.
She said: “Sometimes all that can be done is make the hedgehogs comfortable. This can be very sad but actually Kyra has had a few in over the last year that were so poorly they could not even stand or feed themselves. They were close to death but with her care and strong medications she managed to bring them round to full health.
“Now they are living back in the wild, happy and healthy as it should be.”
As well as rescuing and treating hedgehogs, supporting foster carers in looking after other hogs, and the pair also give presentations and workshops to local nursery schools, and more recently went to B&Q to talk about the dangers strimmers pose to hedgehogs – prompting the store to put warning stickers on all its display models.
Their campaign even saw a hedgehog hotel built in the garden at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. The team who monitor the grounds to check for wild hedgehogs now release hogs that cannot be released back to the areas they were found, into the ‘hedgehog haven hotel’.
The girls are doing all they can to help hedhogs, and have even taken their battle to raise awareness online, and have seen videos of their rescue hogs go viral with more than 250,000 views.
Hedgehog numbers may be in decline, but with Kyra and Sophie fighting for them, they have a future.
Search Hedgehog Friendly Town on Facebook or Twitter to find out more.