NWT welcomes Dartmoor ponies to conservation team
15 Dartmoor Ponies arrived in Norfolk this week ready for their new role as conservation grazing animals for Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) on Norfolk Heathland.
Whilst many are expecting to hear the sound of reindeer hooves in the coming days, staff at Norfolk Wildlife Trust are today listening out for the arrival of a herd of 15 Dartmoor ponies.
The herd includes youngsters, Sherberton Samson & Sherberton Steele, and arrives from five different Dartmoor pony moorland breeders in Devon. The ponies range in age from one to six years old, both males and females and will join the existing herd in delivering NWT’s conservation grazing programme across their nature reserves including East Wretham Heath and sites managed on behalf of Forestry England under the Brecks Heath Partnership.
The Dartmoor pony is officially recognised as a rare native breed. These moor–bred, hardy, conservation grazing ponies are suitable for thriving on coarse vegetation, and providing a natural way to help manage vital wildlife habitat. As selective grazers, the ponies can create a rich variety of different heights and species of vegetation, preventing delicate habitats from becoming dominated and overgrown, and they reach those spots a mower just can’t!
The ponies were sourced from Equi Phoenix Ltd, a company that supplies handled tough hardy equines suitable for conservation grazing for public and private sites across the UK.
NWT’s new four-legged recruits will play an important part in improving, restoring and managing The Brecks for wildlife – a unique landscape of dry acidic grassland, shifting sands and post-glacial ponds.
This benefits a range of vulnerable Norfolk wildlife species including grayling butterflies, Breckland speedwell, stone curlew and nightjar.
NWT Nature Conservation Manager Jonathan Preston, said: “This is another great opportunity for us to protect Norfolk’s biodiversity and help secure the future of a rare native pony breed.
“As well as faring well on the mixed mire and heath sites of Norfolk – areas not dissimilar to Dartmoor – these ponies thrive on the grass heaths of the Norfolk Brecks, where other livestock have tended to lose condition.
“It is important to maintain the ponies’ wildness, because if they become too tame, they can become overly-friendly to the public on our nature reserves rather than carry out important conservation grazing. Just be sure to keep your distance if you spot any wild ponies when you’re out and about, as they are true free spirits!”
Dru Butterfield, Company Director for Equi Phoenix Ltd, said: “We are thrilled that NWT has extended its investment in purchasing pedigree Dartmoors. By providing a variety of ages and family lineage helps create a healthy, happy herd, and one that is more resistant to disease. And, like in all communities, the younger ponies will learn from the older animals, which results in varied and productive grazing at NWT’s conservation sites.
“This is a very valuable sale of our animals, supporting a healthy future for the very special Dartmoor ponies, and continuing to provide a livelihood to the passionate pony keepers here in Dartmoor.
“Equi Phoenix Ltd provides a single contact point, making it easier for land managers to source quality stock, along with expert support, advice and training.”
The new additions increase the Trust’s Dartmoor pony herd to 134 and represent NWT’s commitment to supporting this rare breed.
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