WILD ponies which graze heathland in Tiptree have been moved after members of the public ignored requests not to approach them

Essex Wildlife Trust owns eight Exmoor ponies which they move between different nature reserves.

The Exmoor ponies - an endangered, native breed - play a vital conservation role for the trust by grazing nature reserves for the benefit of wildlife.

After a winter on Tollesbury Wick, the eight geldings return for their annual summer sojourn on Tiptree Heath.

Tiptree Heath is the largest area of lowland heathland remaining in Essex.

Essex Wildlife Trust asks people to keep a “respectful distance” from the animals and say they should not feed the ponies.

But the trust said after reports the public had been ignoring the advice they had taken the decision to move six of the animals.

Two will remain at the site to continue to graze.

A spokesman from Essex Wildlife Trust: “Due to increased popularity of the site in recent months, we’ve received reports of members of the public approaching our wild Exmoor ponies on Tiptree Heath.

“Essex Wildlife Trust owns eight Exmoor ponies that help graze and maintain our nature reserves and we move the ponies between different reserves depending on the habitat management needs.

“These ponies are used for conservation grazing purposes and although they are peaceful animals, they are wild, so members of the public need to respect the signage on site by keeping a respectful distance from the ponies and not approaching or feeding them.

“For this summer, six of the ponies have moved to Tollesbury Wick nature reserve, while two ponies remain on Tiptree Heath to help graze and browse the heathland, helping the heather to thrive.”

A sign which has been put up at the heath said: “They are timid and will not approach humans.

“You must not approach them.”

The ponies are semi-feral and will move away if approached by humans or dogs, in the same way as most cows.

If approached or chased, they will run.

Visitors to the heath are asked to keep dogs on leads.