RSPB headquarters have welcomed six new team members – Dartmoor ponies! These ponies, named Kevin, Podkin, Pook, Barramoor Tom, Black Magic, and Roger, travelled all the way from Dartmoor to The Lodge nature reserve. Their job will be to help make the space an even more attractive home for everything from bugs to birds, and their pooing style is an essential skill set.
Dartmoor ponies are an endangered native breed of pony that are prized for their hardiness, even temperament, and ability to eat plants that other ponies and horses might balk at. This ability to nip, nibble, and stamp thick gorse and brambles brings in light and opens up whole new pathways for them to poo in. This creates space for plants to grow, and their poo provides food for insects and bugs which themselves are tasty morsels for reptiles and birds.
This is not the first time that the RSPB has called on Dartmoor ponies for their services – in RSPB’s Labrador Bay in Devon, for example, they’ve helped the red-listed cirl bunting bird jump from three pairs to 30.
Alan Kell, warden at The Lodge, said: “We are so excited to be welcoming Dartmoor ponies to The Lodge! Before their arrival we had to use mowers and diggers to imitate what ponies do naturally, so asking the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust for help in recruiting some new team members made a lot of sense. They’re settling in nicely, and I can’t wait to see how they reinvigorate the reserve.
“We’d like to say a big thank-you to the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust for all their work in making this happen, and also ask any visitors to The Lodge to please give the ponies their space and not approach them. We want to make sure the ponies feel safe in their new home and, after all, they’re on the job!”
Dru Butterfield, co-founder of the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust, said: “We are thrilled to have Dartmoor ponies at the heart of the RSPB for conservation grazing. They are being used for a very important piece of habitat management. Visitors will be able to see these beautiful animals doing what they do best, creating fantastic habitats for wildlife as they do all over Dartmoor.”
Christopher Price, CEO of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, said: “It’s great to see the RSPB continuing to support one of our endangered native pony breeds in this way. The Dartmoor pony has been part of our history since at least the middle ages, originally working in the tin mines and then, before mechanisation took over, in farming. So we need to conserve it, for all the same reasons we conserve other animals. Thankfully the Dartmoor still has an important role to play. Being small and hardy, it is great breed for grazing poor quality forage and so I hope other landowners will be similarly inspired to consider using native breeds.”
The ponies will stay at The Lodge for the next three to four months before heading back to Dartmoor in the autumn.
Header image: Ben Andrew, RSPB.