Zoology & Botany

hedgehog

Prepare a picture of/book about/a toy hedgehog in advance, as well as a sample of spine

Say: Look at this animal. (Show a picture of a hedgehog.) This is a mammal.

Remember, to be classified as a mammal, an animal should have hair or fur, mammary glands (mammal mothers nurse their young with milk), lungs and need air to breathe. Mammals that live on land are warm blooded, have 4 legs and ears that stick out.

(Point to the hedgehog) Say: A hedgehog is any of the spiny mammals of the subfamily Erinaceinae. Hedgehogs are easily recognized by their spines, which are hollow hairs made stiff with keratin. Their spines are not poisonous or barbed and, unlike the quills of a porcupine, cannot easily be removed from the hedgehog. (Show the baby the spine and let him touch it) Say: Their thick and spiny coats provide them with a formidable defence against predators. The underside is covered in a soft fur. The animal has a thin snout and beady black eyes, which gives him a cute appearance. Their stubby tails are usually hidden under their quills. Hedgehogs have 4 toes on the rear feet and 5 toes on the front feet. Hedgehogs have excellent hearing and sense of smell, but weak eyesight.

Go back to the picture of the hedgehog. Say: let’s find hedgehog’s body parts. This is its head, eyes, nose, mouth, body, legs: 1,2,3,4; this is its hidden tail. A defense that all species of hedgehogs possess is the ability to roll into a tight ball, causing all of the spines to point outwards. Also the hedgehog has the strange habit of 'self anointing'; when it comes across a strong smell or taste it twists its head round and, using the tongue, covers its spines and fur in a frothy saliva - looking as it is covered in soap bubbles! This behavior is quite normal but no-one knows its purpose.

Hedgehogs are living things and need energy to survive. A hedgehog is normally a solitary, nocturnal animal. This animal sleeps in a temporary nest and wakes up at dusk to venture out and hunt for food. It is an insectivore and eats all sorts of invertebrates, is partial to birds' eggs and raids mouse nests for newborn young. Since his diet is based on animals, hedgehog is considered a carnivorous animal.

The female hedgehog makes a special 'maternity' nest of leaves and grass, and after a gestation period of about 32 days, the young are born in litters ranging from one to eleven. At first, the young are blind and pink but soon sprout soft white spines. Their eyes open at about 14 days and they grow more and more brown spines. They remain with their mothers for only four to seven weeks before heading out on their own. Among the predators females must guard against during this period are other male hedgehogs, which will sometimes prey upon the young of their species.

Hedgehogs are found across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. Hedgehogs are absent from North and South America, Australia and South East Asia. We need to take care of Hedgehogs and treat them with respect because they are living things just like us, people.

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