Wicken Fen’s Koniks feature on BBC’s Wild Isles
The first Konik foal of the year has been born at Wicken Fen. The birth came as the species were featured on Sunday’s (March 26) Grasslands episode of the BBC One series Wild Isles, narrated by Sir David Attenborough.
The animals, first introduced to Wicken Fen in the early 2000s from the Isle of Mull, are a hardy breed of European ponies which graze the historic fenland.
Carol Laidlaw, a National Trust grazing ranger who has looked after the herd for more than 20 years, said: “Through their grazing and social behaviour, the Koniks and cattle create a slowly changing, varied landscape.
“They each graze in different ways – horses snip off selected plants with their incisors, creating a mosaic of cropped lawns, while cattle pull or tear at vegetation, leaving tussocks.
“This allows different types of vegetation to thrive and increases the diversity and complexity of habitats available to a wide range of species, from tiny dung beetles to mammals and birds like badgers and bitterns.”
The arrival of the first foal of the season will be a vital continuation of the hooved fenland custodians’ presence at Wicken Fen, as well as kickstart this year’s foaling season, lasting from late March throughout April and May. As well as the Koniks, the team is also expecting calves to join the grazing herd between early spring and autumn.
Carol continues: “The mares generally conceive about a month after they have foaled and have an 11-month gestation, so we’d expect to see new arrivals around the same time each year. The breeding season for the Koniks runs roughly from late March to October, but the season is starting to expand a little, presumably due to the milder winters we are having.”
The first foal born on the reserve, named ‘Harry’ arrived in 2005, while the first calf ‘Meadow Rue’ followed a year later in 2006.
Communities across the UK are encouraged to show their love of nature by committing to ‘go wild once a week’. Find out how you can play your part in saving nature by visiting saveourwildisles.org.uk.