Polish ponies have been released on a wildlife reserve in Northern Ireland as part of a project to restore an Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) wetland meadow.

The nine Konik ponies — a breed believed to be the last relatives of the extinct western European wild horse, the Tarpan — will graze shrubland at the reserve in Ulster to improve the habitat for birds and insects.

Portmore Lough Reserve warden John Scovell said: “We are very excited by the delivery of a herd of Konik ponies to the RSPB reserve at Portmore Lough.

As far as we are aware, they are the only Koniks in Northern Ireland and they will have an important role to play in helping to deliver our conservation goals.

“The ponies have been introduced to graze the reserve to help keep down areas of scrubland which can have a detrimental impact on species including lapwing, redshank, curlew, and the Irish damselfly.”

Konik ponies already graze an RSPB reserve in England at Minsmere in Suffolk and on Kent Wildlife Trust land.