A herd of rare Exmoor ponies has been moved to County Durham after a fundraising appeal, which brought in over £13,000.
A total of 12 ponies have been brought in to graze nature reserves owned by the Durham Wildlife Trust. 10 are now at Rainton Meadows, close to Houghton-le-Spring, with another two animals expected to arrive there soon.
The ponies will spend around three months at Rainton Meadows before being dispersed among other nature reserves owned by the Durham Wildlife Trust.
It is believed that the ponies will be good for conservation as their grazing will keep the trust’s wildflower meadows in good order. This should free up volunteers to concentrate on other tasks.
By chomping encroaching grasses and trampling down bracken, the ponies will also improve species diversity in the areas they graze by giving more plants a chance to grow.
The trust said, “It’s very exciting. It’s really generated a bit of a buzz.”
“We’re hoping we will start to see a lot more visitors coming to see the ponies.”
“They are charismatic creatures, their presence on our sites will help to raise the profile of conservation.”
“Lots of people have got involved and supported the appeal. We’d like to say a big thank you to everyone.”
“The monies raised have enabled the trust to acquire the ponies, to pay for their transportation from Devon, to carry out preparatory work on our reserves and to purchase essential items such as halters and feed buckets.”
The Durham Wildlife Trust’s appeal was launched in November. The appeal hit its target of £9,200 within ten days and went on to raise a total of 13,855.
Some of the extra money raised will be put towards a welfare fund for the ponies, which will ensure that the animals are looked after in the future. The extra cash will also be used to train volunteer wardens, who will check up on the animals and make sure they are well.
The Exmoor pony, a rare breed native to Britain, almost died out in the years after World War II. Only 800 of the ponies remain worldwide, with around 500 living in the UK.