A herd of grazing Exmoor ponies has had to be moved from Southwick Hill after complaints from dog walkers and concerns over children getting too close.
The herd, which is managed by the Sussex Pony and Grazing Conservation Trust, had been at the National Trust owned fields next to Mile Oak since last Thursday.
But after a series of concerning incidents, they were moved yesterday afternoon.
Grazing coordinator Anna Bogg said: “Our decision to remove the herd is not one that has been taken lightly and is definitely NOT in reaction to any one specific incident or to a few complaints, as seems to be the impression.
“We were very excited to be asked to help in the conservation management of this important part of the South Downs and it is a great disappointment to us that we will not fulfil the job of grazing this site that is in such desperate need.
“However, our priority always ultimately has to be to the welfare of the animals in our care. It has become apparent very quickly that such a busy thoroughfare of people and dog walkers such as Southwick Hill poses far too high a risk to all.
“These are ‘wild’ ponies, not handled, tame and ‘friendly’ animals that so many here seem to perceive them to be and they must be treated with the same caution and respect as any loose livestock on farmland.
“We have been seriously concerned by some of the irresponsible behaviour we have witnessed from dog owners, parents of young children and adults simply for themselves in this short time period and are further worried by other evidence and stories we have been given of incidents past and present, concerning the treatment of livestock on this site.
“We have also had signs removed and gates left open and feel the ignorance and intent these behaviours display leave us with no other option than to move the ponies.
“We fully acknowledge that these people and events are in the minority and that it is a great unfairness to all of you who have so enjoyed seeing our Exmoors doing their work but it is our duty of care to the organisation as a whole and to all 81 ponies in our trust to ensure the sustainability of our work for the future.”
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