"It's brought me all kinds of wonderful joys that I never even dreamed of," Brian May says of saving hedgehogs at the Amazing Grace rescue center on his estate in Surrey, England
Brian May hedgehog
Credit: Saving Britains Hedgehogs

When he’s not touring the world with Adam Lambert, helping to create Oscar-winning movies, or exploring the cosmos, Queen guitarist Brian May has another passion: saving hedgehogs.

“It does feel great,” May tells Channel 5 show Saving Britain’s Hedgehogs, which features the conservation work carried out at the Amazing Grace rescue center on his estate in Surrey, England, where sickly hogs are rehabilitated and released back into the wild.

“The actual hands-on thing of saving animals is so rewarding and so inspiring,” adds May, who earned a Ph.D in astrophysics in 2007. “It’s brought me all kinds of wonderful joys that I never even dreamed of. To see these animals come in hurt, poisoned, dehydrated and see them taken care of and then let out for another chance in the wild, to me it’s one of the greatest joys that’s ever come into my life.”

In the three years since May, 71, created Amazing Grace with co-founder Anne Brummer, the center has successfully treated thousands of injured or newborn hogs.

Being small and near-sighted, the tiny animals are at danger from a wide range of man-made objects like drain holes, soccer nets, plastic can holders, tin cans and everyday garden items such as weed wackers, mowers and netting.

After the hogs are brought to the center, they get cleaned up and receive medical care, before being released into May’s “Hedgehog Heaven” – a patch of garden filled with insect-attracting plants, so that they can root around in the dirt and rediscover their wild ways.

“It’s a paradise for hedgehogs,” May tells the show’s presenter Steve Backshall. “It’s their intermediate home. They’ll learn to forage and look after themselves and they’ll be back out in the wild – because they are wild animals.”

As a hedgehog nibbles on his sock, May gently lifts the creature onto the ground to go in search of “some lovely ants.”

May — who in January helped to photograph the most distant space object ever captured on film — adds: “They love it, how wonderful.”

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Yet May’s conservation work isn’t always so pleasant, as many of the hogs arrive at Amazing Grace carrying serious wounds. One such hog — nicknamed Phil — arrives midway through the show missing a foot and the team decides that they need to amputate the entire leg.

With Phil sedated by a vet, May watches helplessly as the hog nearly dies on the operating table. It’s only through the skillful work of the veterinary team that he eventually pulls through — although not before the team realizes that Phil is actually Philomena.

“It doesn’t matter anyway, does it. It’s gender fluid these days. We don’t care about gender,” jokes May.

“I don’t think any of us realized how stressful it was going to be,” he continued. “You realize how much on a knife-edge an operation like that is. If they hadn’t been able to get her breathing again, so skillfully, that would have been it. That would have been a terrible outcome. But she seems great.”

The rock legend adds, “It’s hard being a parent!”