‘Prehistoric’ foal born in Kent

A foal has been produced by one of a herd of ‘prehistoric’ Konik horses at Stodmarsh nature reserve near Canterbury. The male foal, born a few weeks ago, is coping well with the cold weather.

The Konik horses were introduced to the reserve, managed by Natural England, in 2002, as part of a scheme by the Wildwood Trust to restore native grassland by reintroducing ancient grazing species.

Such species can support a greater diversity of plants by grazing away the dominant species, which leads to diversity in the animal life in the area. They also protect natural habitats such as fenland and marshes.

Koniks are direct descendants of the Tarpan, a wild horse that became extinct in 1876 because of habitat destruction and over-hunting. The Tarpan was bred with domestic horses, producing a hybrid species known as ‘Konik’, a Polish word meaning ‘small horse’. The species is well suited to Stodmarsh, as Koniks are resilient to the tough wetland habitat.

Peter Smith, chief executive of the Wildwood Trust, said: ‘The birth of this foal is great news, and is part of the plan for developing conservation grazing schemes to restore natural ecological processes to help Britain teem with wildlife again.’

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Following the success of the introduction of the herd at Stodmarsh, where the horses brought about beneficial changes to the wildlife, the Wildwood Trust has introduced wild horses to several other sites in Kent, including the South Swale nature reserve, Gibbin’s Brook and the Whitehall meadow next to Canterbury City Centre.