Judith Bos founded The Hedgehog Program when she started breeding in october 2014 at Hedgery of the High Moors. But it wasn’t always set up like an international platform..
When Judith started keeping African Pygmy Hedgehogs in 2011 and started sheltering neglected and mistreated hedgehogs, there was hardly any information on them publicly known. All her basic information at that time came from the data known on climat wesites where she calculated an average temperature from. their diet was simple: cat food and some meat and vegetables. Soon after she got her second hedgehog, she started to look for more information and found a lot of outdated and untrustworthy information in Dutch. So she looked for information elsewhere: English, Spanish, German and she translated it all into Dutch so she could write her own caresheet.
Two years later, Judith had made a solid basic caresheet for African Pygmy Hedgehogs in her own language and had started to look more into their natural dietary needs and the amount of breeders and rescues in her own country and elsewhere and she found a lot of other Dutch hedgehog owners: including one of the first owners in The Netherlands, 5km from her own home! The man had stopped breeding them for some years, but told her a lot of additional information on the medical part of the hedgehogs, which is when she reached out to vets and clinics to gather medical information and possible sensitivities and wrote her findings out in the careheet she had by now made into a publicly accessible Dutch forum, where others could also ask for advice and share their findings. Within the same years she made a free website on WordPress to display all the information for people without the need to register.
At the end of 2014, the website was increased up to a full website with loads of information, in Dutch, with a list of breeders and knowledgeable people. This is the same year in which her last shelter hedgehog passed away on the age of 6,5 years. It is also the hardest year of her life has her brother has suddenly passed away the day after she took in her first breeding male, whilst her sister-in-law was pregnant with their first child. Her brother has always told her to do whatever makes her happy, because life is just too short. In dedication to her brother she has decided right then and there to follow up his advice and she started Hedgery of the High Moors and started to translate all of her findings and information into English as well.
Throughout the past four years, Judith has dedicated her life to working with the hedgehogs. Breeding, sheltering, writing, researching… She has seen the project grow to a massively big website with up to 10 languages, but also has seen a lot of downfalls. From a possible collaboration with a university on the long term, to the drama that has cost her her team, Judith decide it is better to do it on her own rather than having a big group of people. Nevertheless, she wants the project to succeed and does want the help of the community and create the feeling of having a close community to work with. Which is why she decided to throw things over a new leaf, by updating the website and creating an all-open accessible database and a lot of informational posts and informational pages which as based on knowledge from all over the world. She’s also working on creating a few interesting online courses, which wil be accessible through the Open Learning platform. She hopes to still be able to achieve her goals with the help of the community, even thought the downscaling that happened in april 2018.
What’s the goal of The Hedgehog Program?
The hedgehog Program is a private, hobbyistic research and education platform with the main goal to increase knowledge on the needs of African Pygmy Hedgehogs, their medical health and their genetics. Judith want to achieve this by doing a genetics research first, to see patterns on how colors inherit and then research the possibilities of heath issues being caused by certain pigment mutations or through inbreeding. Through these two researches, she hopes to get vet clinics, universities and other institues and organisations interested enough to complete a Whole Genome Sequencing. This is a scientific research that gives a list of the full DNA set-up of organisms. From the function of their liver to the color of their eyes. After a WGS, she hopes to be able to work together with universities and other specialists to research which DNA parts belong to organ functions and which ones decide the colors of a hedgehog’s quills, mask and eyes. And with the list of scientifically proven igment mutations, it’s possible to research health issues and possibly even the cause of Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome and other well-known health issues within the species.
Allthough this will probably be a very long process to achieve, it’s certainly not impossible! With the right mindset and a good research, we might just do it!