Dartmoor ponies 'extinction fears' over hardiness gene

Conservationists are concerned the Dartmoor hill pony could be in danger of becoming extinct.

Numbers have dropped from about 30,000 at the beginning of the century to just 1,500 in 2011.

The Dartmoor Hill Pony Association said if numbers continued to fall, the breed would be in danger of losing its hardiness to survive on the moor.

Many farmers said numbers were falling because younger generations did not want to take them on.

The Association's Charlotte Faulkner told BBC News: "If they lose that hardiness to survive, then we'll never get it back."

Dartmoor National Park Authority's Robert Steemson said: "The ponies are very important as a conservation management tool.

"They are incredibly important for the biodiversity of the landscape."

He said the animals helped to shape the moor by feeding on the vegetation.

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