THE Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust says ponies born and bred on Dartmoor can play a pivotal role in addressing the critical decline of heathland environments in the National Park. 

The trust has launched its ‘Mouths on the Moor’ campaign in order to highlight the role of native ponies on the moor in preserving the ecosystem. 

They hope that increaced awareness and changes to stocking rules could redress the loss of heathland plants that are becoming engulfed by purple moor grass and other aggressive species, while supporting Dartmoor’s hill farmers by getting more grazing animals back on the moor.

Rare and precious heathland plants like heather and bilberry have been lost on around 40% of the moor, overtaken by vast expanses of Molinia grass, large stands of western and European gorse and bracken. 

Natural England has recognised the need for consultation to address the decline in the quality of the moorland environment. The public consultation stage of its Independent Review concluded on 16 October.

Debbie Leach, CEO of the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust, said: ‘If the ponies native to Dartmoor and other livestock can once again access and effectively graze the rampant purple moor grass and gorse, as well as trample the bracken, other plants will re-establish.

‘Most importantly, it will allow the re-creation of biodiverse heathland habitats that support a wide range of animal and plant species.’