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PUBLISHED: 23:06 12 December 2008 | UPDATED: 22:01 05 July 2010

A HERD of Dartmoor ponies has been released into Dunwich Forest to help improve the habitat for some of East Anglia's protected species.

Twenty-seven ponies, including a six-month-old foal, were released as part of Suffolk Wildlife's Trust's new project to enhance the area and turn it from woodland back into lowland coastal heath.

A HERD of Dartmoor ponies has been released into Dunwich Forest to help improve the habitat for some of East Anglia's protected species.

Twenty-seven ponies, including a six-month-old foal, were released as part of Suffolk Wildlife's Trust's new project to enhance the area and turn it from woodland back into lowland coastal heath.

The herd was moved from the West Country to the area and was welcomed to its new home on Friday by trust staff and author and journalist Simon Barnes. The ponies will graze the 700-acre northern section of the forest to help turn the area from conifer plantation into open woodland.

The aim is to improve and extend the habitat for some of Suffolk's native species, including woodlarks, nightjars, green tiger beetles and barbastelle bats.

The area will be managed by the trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to reinstate the natural heathland - one of the UK's rarest habitats - once the existing conifer trees are felled to help birds and insects flourish.

Trust reserve assistant Dayne West said: “This project will eventually transform this whole site. The area is currently a mix of Corsican pine and broad-leaf woodland, and over a period of about 35 or 40 years we hope to thin the trees out by not replanting. And then the ponies will come into their own, transforming it into a mixed habitat with patches of open heathland among the trees.”

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