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New staff members gallop into East Yorkshire nature reserve

Last modified: 25 April 2016

Konik ponies grazing at RSPB Minsmere

Image: Andy Hay

RSPB Blacktoft Sands has welcomed two new Konik ponies to their site, to help the team manage the land for wildlife in an environmentally friendly way.

The nature reserve, near Goole, was able to buy the Koniks – named Splat and Theo – as part of Blacktoft’s Saving Marshlands Wildlife and Heritage project which is supported by funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Pete Short, Blacktoft Sands’ Site Manager, said: “Splat and Theo will join our existing herd of four horses, which have grazed the tidal reedbed here over the last four years. They have made a huge difference for wildlife: saltmarsh plants, such as strawberry clover and milkwort, are thriving;   invertebrate numbers have increased and we discovered the rare crucifix ground beetle, which is only found in ten other sites in the UK.

“We’ve also seen a huge variety in bird species, with avocets, bearded tits, bitterns, snipe, skylarks, reed buntings and black tailed godwits all being spotted in the area where the Koniks graze.”

The new Koniks, aged three and four years old, have settled in very well but are being kept in a separate area from the older ponies for now. They will be carefully integrated into the existing herd over the next few months.

Konik grazing at Blacktoft is part of the wider Back to the Future project, funded by WREN Biodiversity Action Fund, which looks at how to manage fenland habitats for wildlife on a landscape scale without the use of machinery.

‘Konik’ means little horse, and Konik ponies were originally bred in Poland from descendants of the now extinct wild horse called the tarpan. This selected breeding has resulted in horses that are very hardy and only need basic care to remain in good health, which makes them perfect animals to graze the fenland all year round; in fact, the colder it is the healthier Koniks are. They also love the water and will quite happily wade into deep water to graze some of their favourite food.  

Pete added: “Our vision for the future use of Konik ponies is to have herds grazing over large areas of land. This will create more natural habitat, rich in wildlife, and will also help manage the land in a more environmentally friendly way instead of always relying on machinery.”

For more information on RSPB Blacktoft Sands, visit www.rspb.org.uk/blacktoftsands, call 01405 704665 or email blacktoft.sands@rspb.org.uk

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