Two Dartmoor ponies are heading to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire where visitors will be able to see them at the UK’s largest Zoo.

The yearling geldings, Thomas and Stargazer, will be flying the flag for Dartmoor ponies which are classified as endangered by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

The ponies were bred by Tim Whitley and his family at Hedgebarton Farm near Widecombe-in-the-Moor and ran as part of a herd which lives on common ground close to Hound Tor, renowned for its association with the famous Sherlock Holmes story The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Dru Butterfield, co-founder of the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust (DPHT), was instrumental in securing the move of the ponies, ensuring the Dartmoor breed has its place in the spotlight at the UK’s largest zoo.

“We are thrilled to have these ponies going to the zoo to promote the wonderful temperaments of hardy Dartmoor ponies and to showcase them to a huge audience,” said Dru.

The Whitley’s have a herd of 11 grey mares which breed a crop of foals each year. This year, four mares will be going into the Dartmoor Pony Moorland Scheme as foundation mares for a breeding up programme.

Their progeny will eventually be given full pedigree status by the Dartmoor Pony Society, ensuring they retain the strength and vigour for which Dartmoors are renowned.

‘Super quality ponies’

Prior to Thomas and Stargazer arriving at the zoo this week, the Dartmoor ponies were handled by Mr Whitley’s family with additional help from Dru.

“We made sure they were desensitised; the family took them for walks, groomed them all over and picked out their hooves,” said Dru.

“They are super quality ponies. It will be wonderful for us to watch their progress alongside other rare breeds at Whipsnade and we’ll be keeping in touch with them for regular updates.”

Matt Webb, animal manager at the zoo, added: “We are delighted to be welcoming these two Dartmoor ponies to Hullabazoo Farm at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, where so many children and families will be able to watch and enjoy them.”

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