New Delhi, June 19 (IANS) Two hedgehogs, being trafficked, were found in an unclaimed bag at a railway station here and are currently under care, animal welfare organisation Wildlife SOS said on Tuesday.
The stressed and scared animals — an adult female and a baby — were found huddled up in the bag at the Sarai Rohilla Railway Station in north Delhi, after a passenger inspected a shaking bag from which a scuffling sound was heard coming.
Native to India and Pakistan, the Indian hedgehog (Paraechinus micropus) has fur covered with spines or strong hairs made of keratin which look like small nails. The palm size species curls up like a ball as a defensive mechanism.
Wildlife experts call it a rare rescue since the incidents of poaching or trafficking of this rare nocturnal species are seldom reported.
“In some parts of India, the hedgehogs are burned alive till its spines are burnt. Its body parts are then sold as sex stimulants or aphrodisiacs… it is utter superstition,” Wildlife SOS co-founder and CEO Kartick Satyanarayan told IANS.
He added that in some regions, they are kept as exotic pets.
Found mostly in arid and semi arid region of northwestern India, the species is quickly losing its habitat and thus its population is decreasing, according to International Union of Conservation of Nature. They feed primarily on insects such as beetles, small vertebrates, scorpions and eggs of ground-nesting birds.
“They will be released back into the wild, once deemed fit by the veterinarians,” said Wasim Akram, Special Projects Manager, Wildlife SOS.