Traditional, native tramps are at their lowest numbers since records began, according to a government report. Destruction of their habitat, increased competition from more aggressive vagrants and a national shortage of fingerless gloves and spotted handkerchiefs have all contributed to their decline, the report claims.
"Climate change is an important factor", explained Ms Wanderer, of the Royal Society for Tramps and Hobos. "Modern, high-tech tramps with their breathable anoraks are more adaptable than the traditional tweed-clad variety, even the few that have adopted comically-torn umbrellas can't compete", she lamented.
Digital media was also cited as a major contributor to the decline. "You can't sleep under an iPad", quipped Ms Wanderer, "and the decline of the broadsheet newspaper, coupled with a reduction in the number of bins in which to find them, makes it increasingly tough for tramps to nest".
Other experts have suggested that the traditional call of the tramp, "spare us 50p for a cup of tea, luv?" is being drowned out by the more aggressive Big Issue vagrant, which has rapidly engulfed many of the Traditional Tramp's feeding grounds. "The traditional call is rather quiet and meek, and its message confusing to younger members of the public", explained Professor Chaplin, who teaches Ne'erdowell Studies at Bath University. "We've run some experiments in our laboratory, but 'spare us £3.60 for a Skinny Choco-latté with a vanilla shot' fails to nurture the same sympathy in passers-by".
Despite these problems, there is hope for the tramps. Various charities have started handing out top hats with the top ripped out, and hobnail boots with holes in. Street workshops have been set up to teach inexperienced tramps how to appear grubby but chirpy, and how to tie a handkerchief to a stick.
There have been ground-breaking projects to protect indigenous hobos in the States, where it is now a legal requirement to provide at least one wooden wagon with an open door on all interstate railway trains. Other projects have seen clean harmonicas handed out at drop-in centres, after sharing harmonicas was blamed for the spread of whimsy amongst vagrants. A similar scheme for violins with only two strings is being considered here.
But some tramps want their cause to go further. "We'd really like to have more representation in the media, especially on television", commented Bob Dime, of the Tramp Protection League. "Some people might think we are adequately represented on popular programmes about endangered native species, but I must emphasise that Bill Oddie isn't a proper tramp. He's just a scruffy bastard."