16 August 2012
Media and Communications Officer
An Aberdeenshire nature reserve is ramping up its au naturel approach to boosting biodiversity by expanding its workforce.
A further 4 wild horses, including a stallion, have joined an existing resident herd of konik horses at RSPB Loch of Strathbeg.
The horses, which can cope with harsh climate and forage in the wild, have been helping to improve the wetland habitat through natural grazing.
Staff have been so impressed by their ability to munch through courser grass, sedges and rushes that they have decided to increase the herd.
Richard Humpidge, Site Manager at RSPB Loch of Strathbeg, said: “The koniks are a very popular and important conservation tool, they love to eat the tough vegetation that we used to have to spend a lot of time and money stripping away with machines. As they are so effective we’ve decided to increase the herd slowly and naturally through a breeding programme, that way we can monitor their progress and ensure we reach a grazing level that will is beneficial for the thousands of geese, ducks and wading birds that need the wetlands to feed and breed.”
To ensure the koniks can work undisturbed they will once again be kept on the less public areas of the reserve. However, visitors will be able to see them distantly from the hides and follow their progress on the website.
Konik horses graze intensively in small areas so their effects are long lasting and resounding. Although they are wild, they will be confined to certain areas of the reserve that require more concentrated habitat management approach.
For more information visit www.rspb.org.uk/lochofstrathbeg
· This project is a continuation of the ongoing habitat restoration works at Loch of Strathbeg. These works were funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Europe and Scotland Making it work together, the project is also supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund and by Scottish Natural Heritage, by The Gillman Trusts, the Friends of Strathbeg and the Kemnay Wildlife Explorers Group.
· The RSPB Loch of Strathbeg Visitor Centre is open daily from 9am until 6pm, entrance is free.
· The existing resident herd arrived at RSPB Loch of Strathbeg in April 2011, prior to their arrival they were under the care of the Wildwood Trust, a conservation charity based in Canterbury, who has been using konik horses as part of a conservation grazing project on nature reserves in Kent. The new koniks are from a collection owned by the RSPB and arrived from RSPB Portmore Lough in Northern Ireland.
· Konik is Polish and means small horse.
· Konik horses produce a patchy mosaic structure of vegetation, which creates a diversity of flora and fauna for numerous species.
· Konik horses digest grasses better than domestic horses.