Pony poo power harnessed to improve life for birds

  • The RSPB is harnessing the power of pony poo to help improve life for birds and other wildlife at its headquarters.

    Six Dartmoor ponies – Kevin, Pook, Podkin, Barramoor Tom, Black Magic and Roger – have moved to The Lodge nature reserve, Bedfordshire, to help restore the space for invertebrates and birds, “through their grazing, trampling and poo”.

    An RSPB spokesman said: “Their pooing style is an essential skill set.

    “Dartmoor ponies are an endangered native breed 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.”

    The Lodge warden Alan Kell said the team has had to use diggers and mowers to try to recreate what the ponies do naturally.

    “So asking the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust for help in recruiting some new team members made a lot of sense,” he said. “They’re settling in nicely, and I can’t wait to see how they reinvigorate the reserve.”

    Mr Kell thanked the trust for its efforts, and asked visitors to The Lodge not to approach the ponies.

    Trust co-founder Dru Butterfield 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.”

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    The ponies will stay at The Lodge for some months, then go back to Dartmoor in the autumn.

    Rare Breed Survival Trust chief executive Christopher Prince said: “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 a great breed for grazing poor-quality forage, so I hope other landowners will be similarly inspired to consider using native breeds.”

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