CARING teenagers from Stratford got star treatment when they received an award for their dedication to helping hedgehogs.
Kyra Barboutis and Sophie Smith received a Young Person Award from the RSPCA at a ceremony hosted by comedian John Bishop in London.
The 13-year-old cousins have rescued more than 400 hedgehogs between them over the last three-and-a-half years – looking after as many as 48 at one time.
The animals are housed in specially-built facilities in their back gardens with the ultimate aim of returning them back to the wild.
The pair also gives talks in schools and to groups to make more people aware of how to help the population flourish, including by creating ‘hedgehog highways’ in their gardens.
Housing developers also call on the teenagers for help to make development sites more hedgehog and wildlife-friendly.
Kyra said: “We started when we realised we hadn’t seen a hedgehog in such a long time.
“We did some research and started writing letters to our neighbours, then we visited a local rescue centre to find out more about what we could do.
“We now foster sick and injured hedgehogs and with support from our parents and local vets and are often able to get the hedgehogs back to health.
“One hedgehog was injured by a strimmer and was very thin and weak but we’ve hand-reared him and he has doubled in size, we are hoping after his rehabilitation he will be able to be released back into the wild.
“We are really thrilled to have won this honour as it helps us to further spread our message about how to help hedgehogs. We are so delighted to have the chance to raise awareness of what we do and hopefully we can inspire others to be kinder to hedgehogs.”
Sophie added: “Our friends really enjoy helping out, they find the hedgehogs really cute which is great for us as we always need helping hands.”