Animal-loving politician Ann Widdecombe has become the face of a new campaign to protect an iconic British animal from extinction.

Ms Widdecombe launched Save Harry! today - Monday, July 9 - a campaign by the Wildlife Aid Foundation (WAF), based in Leatherhead, to help save Britain’s hedgehogs.

It is calling on the Government to introduce a new hedgehog protection law making the wilful killing of the animals illegal and introducing a mandatory code of practice.

Under its Biodiversity Action Plan, the Government is required to reverse the decline in wildlife species and hedgehogs have priority status - along with more than a thousand other species.

They are also not officially classified as endangered, despite their numbers plummeting in recent years.

The Strictly Come Dancing contestant, who was one of few Conservative MPs to consistently vote for the ban on fox hunting in 2004, said: "Sixty years ago there were about 36 million hedgehogs.

"Incredibly, this number had plummeted to some two million in the 1990s and could now be down to under a million.

"We need to take action now before extinction becomes a very real prospect."

She said there have been calls from protection societies for people to do various things to make life safer for hedgehogs on an individual basis, but no concerted effort by those in authority to act.

She added: "Previous warnings have had little effect because they have placed the onus solely on the individual to act, ignoring the pivotal role of legislation - something which I understand full well.

"All we ask for is the mandatory introduction of some simple and low-cost measures to improve the survival rates of this iconic British animal, which holds a special place in our hearts."

Simon Cowell, WAF’s founder, said he wants future generations in Britain to be able to see native hedgehogs.

He said: "This will force all government agencies, including Network Rail and the Highways Agency, to treat as critical the plight of the British hedgehog.

"A new law will also prompt influential trade and consumer bodies, such as the Royal Horticultural Society and the Home Builders’ Federation to take notice and provide advice to their members before it is too late."