NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Konik horses arrive at RSPB Loch of Strathbeg reserve

An Aberdeenshire nature reserve has drafted in a herd of rare wild horses in a bid to maintain its habitat.

Konik horses are being used at the RSPB's Loch of Strathbeg site, between Peterhead and Fraserburgh, to harness the wildlife benefits of their grazing.

Koniks cope with harsh climates while foraging. This will save vegetation being artificially stripped away.

The breed is descended from the Tarpan horse which roamed Britain in prehistoric times.

Dominic Funnell, site manager at RSPB Loch of Strathbeg, said: "Koniks love eating rank tussocky vegetation and we have lots of it at Strathbeg.

Koniks are said to be good news for geese, swans, ducks and wading birds

"Currently we have to strip it away to ensure our wetlands remain in top condition.

"But now, thanks to the grazing habits of these horses, we can ditch the machines and get back to an au naturel approach to habitat management."

He added: "It's great news for the geese, swans, ducks and wading birds, like lapwings and curlew, who need wetlands to feed and breed, and it means we will have more time to concentrate on other conservation work.

"These horses will be doing an important job for us so, to make sure they're not disturbed, they'll be working on the less public areas of the reserve.

"Visitors will be able to see them distantly and be able to hear more about their work in the visitor centre and on the reserve website."

'More for less'

Before their arrival, the eight horses were under the care of the Wildwood Trust - a conservation charity based in Canterbury - which has been using Konik horses as part of a conservation grazing project on nature reserves in Kent.

Wildwood Trust chief executive Peter Smith said: "We are delighted to be able to give these horses to the RSPB.

"As a natural resource, the Konik horse offers conservationists a way of saving more wildlife for less money, saving charitable organisations and the tax payer alike thousands of pounds as we recreate natural habitats for some of the rarest and most endangered species in the UK."

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