HEDGEHOG rescuing duo Sophie Smith and Kyra Barboutis have been named Young Animal Hero of the Year at a star-studded event.
The Stratford schoolgirls have looked after more than 500 hedgehogs after setting up Facebook page Hedgehog Friendly Town some four years ago.
The 13-year-olds were inspired to help Britain’s favourite mammal after hearing the population had fallen from 30million in 1950 to 1.5million today.
And with the support of their parents, the girls run a ‘hogspital’ in their sheds and back gardens and present talks in schools and at events to raise awareness.
And Sophie, who attends Stratford Girls’ Grammar School, and Kyra, who goes to Stratford School, were this week honoured for their dedication to the critters at the Mirror Animal Hero Awards in London.
The pair told the Observer: “We had the most amazing time at the animal hero awards. We met some incredible people and animals proving here in the UK we really have people that are willing to stand up, work hard and make a difference. It was inspiring and sometimes heart breaking to watch some of the stories.
“The absolute best part of the night though was watching a video message from Simon Cowell to us telling us ‘If everyone was like you and had your compassion for animals the world would be a better place’. He also said he would like to meet us one day and if we need any help he would be there.
“We met so many famous people including most of the Love Island cast and got to cuddle loads of dogs which was just lovely.
“Everyone was just so open and friendly we have come away with even more determination to keep pushing and making changes for our wildlife.”
The ceremony was hosted by TV presenter Steve Backshall and his wife and Olympic gold-medal winning rower Helen Glover.
Other famous faces who attended included Paul O’Grady, Ross Kemp and Richard Hammond among many others.
Earlier this month, Kyra and Sophie were also named on The Independent’s Happy List, which celebrates ’50 inspirational people whose kindness, ingenuity and bravery have made Britain a better place’.
Search Hedgehog Friendly Town to follow updates from the girls.