Author Sir Terry Pratchett warned that Britain’s wildlife was in serious decline yesterday as he launched an appeal to fund a new multi-million pound animal hospital.
The fantasy writer, 63, spoke out in an effort to inspire nature-lovers to look after endangered creatures such as the hedgehog and the sparrow.
He passionately backed a campaign to build a new £4.4million wildlife teaching hospital – which would include an education centre to train young vets.
The bearded Discworld author launched the appeal at Secret World Wildlife Rescue Centre, in East Huntspill, Somerset – the site of the proposed hospital.
He has been joined by television nature experts Mike Dilger, Simon King, Steve Backshall, Chris Packam and Michaela Strachan in backing the “Call of the Wild Appeal”.
Sir Terry said: “Orphaned by traffic, hurt by our pollution and rubbish and forced out of their natural habitats by our developments, Britain’s wildlife is in serious decline.
“So much so that even the sparrow and the much-loved hedgehog are endangered.
“Fifty years ago there were 30 million hedgehogs in Britain but now there is only an estimated 1.1 million – so if we carry on at this rate they could be extinct in ten years.
“Yet when humans decide to act they succeed in reversing the trend. I urge everyone to play their part.”
The new teaching hospital will include an operating theatre, examination, preparation and X-ray rooms – with a first-floor laboratory, lecture theatre and library.
It will give Secret World, Britain’s only 24-hour animal rescue centre, the facilities to provide all veterinary care on one site and bring faster relief to suffering wildlife.
An IT hook-up will even allow up to 120 resident students a year to watch procedures being performed by the hospital’s in-house vet in an operating theatre.
The education centre will also include a lecture theatre and meeting room.
Sir Terry, who is suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s, previously offered a £10,000 reward to catch a swan killer who massacred 30 of the birds in Somerset last year.
Pauline Kidner, Secret World founder, said Britain’s wildlife had been hard hit by the speed of development in rural areas.
She said: “We will receive around 5,000 injured or orphaned animals and birds over the coming year, yet when wildlife needs people’s support most – the nation is increasingly losing touch with nature.
“While vets receive virtually no wildlife training, children now spend half the time outdoors that they did 40 years ago and many cannot even identify an oak tree.
“The launching of our new hospital and education centre project is a positive move to redress the balance and we are appealing for everyone in the region to give us their support so that we can open in 2013.”