Four wild ponies are being put to work grazing the fields of an RSPB nature reserve in Yorkshire.
It is hoped that the Wild Konik ponies – a central European breed – will help to create suitable conditions for ground-nesting birds such as lapwings at the Blacktoft Sands reserve.
They have been brought from the RSPB’s Minsmere site in Suffolk.
The charity hopes that by managing the land with natural horsepower, the plan is to reduce the need for expensive machinery and fuel.
RSPB Blacktoft Sands visitor officer Mike Andrews said: “We think the ponies will be a real hit with our visitors as they’re not our typical feathered friends.
“They are generally placid and look cute, but they are still essentially wild animals so we are asking people not to pet them and to keep a respectful distance.”
Polish Konik ponies have been grazing nature reserves in Europe to benefit wildlife for the past decade, and in recent years they have started appearing in some reserves in the UK.
The RSPB also have Koniks at Portmore Lough in Northern Ireland and Loch of Strathbeg in eastern Scotland.
The Konik is a small but hardy breed, directly descended from the Tarpan, a wild horse driven to extinction in central Europe in the late 19th century.
They can survive in temperatures of up to minus 40 degrees, are rarely ill and are adept at foraging, making them largely self-sufficient.
For more information visit www.rspb.org.uk/reserves
Photo courtesy of Mike Pilsworth