A ground-breaking contraceptive programme for semi-feral Dartmoor Hill ponies in Britain is about to start.
The charity World Horse Welfare has joined with The Friends of The Dartmoor Hill Pony organisation and local veterinarians for the experimental project aimed at tackling overbreeding among ponies on Dartmoor.
The charity’s veterinary consultant, Keith Meldrum, has been working closely with The Friends of The Dartmoor Hill Pony and pharmaceutical company Pfizer on plans to provide 20 mares with a contraceptive injection.
The project was to start on Wednesday with the first round of injections being administered.
The semi-feral ponies were to be rounded up into a holding area, where they will be micro-chipped and also marked so that they are identifiable at a distance. They will then be given the injection, and four weeks later a second dose will be administered.
The mares will be carefully monitored to see how they react to the drug, both in terms of pregnancy and possible changes in herd behaviour.
“We are hoping that, if successful, this could become a long-term solution to the issue of overbreeding within semi-feral horse and pony populations,” Meldrum says.
“We feel that this method of control is advantageous as the mares can come back into foal after the treatment; there is simply a reduction in foal production for the duration of the project.”
The Friends of The Dartmoor Hill Pony vice-chairperson, Charlotte Faulkner, said adult pony numbers on the moor needed to be maintained at the present number for the benefit of Dartmoor, but the foal crop needed to be reduced as there is no market for the foals at present.
“Controlling the production of unwanted foals will ensure their welfare,” she said.
“We are optimistic that this project will help us to ensure the future of ponies on Dartmoor. They will be able to graze to keep the moor as we know and love it for generations to come, conserving the habitat for its wonderful birds, plants and animals.”
The project is being sponsored by the The Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Pony, who are grateful for the help they have received to take this project forward.