National Trust's Wicken Fen gets help from konik ponies and Highland cows to manage reserve

Horses at Wicken Fen
Credit: PA
Stallions can be seen during foaling season displaying their dominance. Credit: PA

A National Trust nature reserve has drafted in help of Konik pony foals and Highland calves to manage its habitat.

The dozen Konik foals, a breed originating from Poland, have been finding their feet at Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire.

As they walk through the lowland landscape their dung and water-filled hoofprints attract new animals and plants.

More than 200 foals have been born on the reserve since breeding started in 2003 and visitors can frequently see the ponies rearing up on their hind legs in a display of dominance during the foaling season. 

The management of vegetation at the reserve is being helped by four baby Highland cows, the latest of which was born this week  - the 100th to be born at Wicken Fen since breeding started in 2005.

Highland calf Malin with mother Apple at Wicken Fen Credit: PA

The animals are supporting the National Trust to reduce their reliance on machinery. 

“The animals help keep the landscape open and help wetland and grassland plants to become established," a spokesman said.

"Horses tend to snip off selected plants with their incisors, creating a mosaic of short cropped 'lawns'. Some areas will be grazed more heavily, while other areas may escape, allowing the vegetation to grow taller.”

A Konik pony smiling for the camera Credit: ITV Anglia

Wicken Fen is the National Trust's oldest nature reserve and one of Europe's most important wetlands, supporting an abundance of wildlife.

There are more than 9,000 species, including an array of plants, birds and dragonflies.

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