Ipswich hedgehog officer appointed after global interest in job

Ali North Image copyright Ali North
Image caption "Everyone loves hedgehogs", says winning candidate Alexandra North

A hedgehog officer is set to start work to improve animal numbers after an advert for the job sparked worldwide interest.

Alexandra North, 25, a zoology graduate from Swindon, beat about 150 applicants to land the £24,000-a-year role with Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

She will start work as Ipswich's dedicated hedgehog officer next month.

The trust chose to focus on the town after receiving a large number of sightings by members of the public.

Image copyright Paul Hobson
Image caption She hopes to make Ipswich "a really hedgehog-friendly town"

Almost 12,000 hedgehogs, dead and alive, have been recorded in Suffolk over the past two years, with about 2,500 of these around Ipswich.

The trust previously said there was a "rich natural network" for hedgehogs across Ipswich, "including its beautiful parks as well as the cemetery, allotments and churches".

Ms North, who currently works as a researcher at Cambridge-based conservation group Birdlife International, saw off competitors from countries including France, Spain, Germany, South Korea, China, the US and Nepal.

The job advert for the two-year role was shared around the world and mistakenly touted as a £2.4m post in the Taiwanese press.

However, in the end the wildlife trust interviewed just four candidates, all of whom were from the UK, "because they matched the criteria most closely, not because they were based in the UK", a trust spokeswoman said.

"The competition was tough. We had applications from around the world and some really strong candidates," the trust said.

Image copyright Tom Marshall/Ali North
Image caption The wildlife trust was "overwhelmed" by interest, but said Ms North was appointed because she had "quite a unique mix of skills"

Ms North said she was "really excited by the prospect of a great project with the overall aim to make Ipswich a really hedgehog-friendly town".

Her work will involve building a network of volunteers who in turn will help build a network of hedgehog-friendly routes around Ipswich's urban landscape.

Image copyright Birdie
Image caption After BBC Suffolk backed the trust's campaign to make Ipswich hedgehog-friendly, artist Birdie, whose image of Pudsey mourning Terry Wogan's death went viral, created this mascot

Ms North, who boasts a postgraduate degree in biodiversity and conservation, said: "Everyone loves hedgehogs and they are so important to the biodiversity of our landscape and our wildlife.

"I really hope I can engage with people and encourage everyone to see how making small changes really can make a difference to these little creatures."

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