Acorn Poisoning Kills New Forest Ponies

More than 30 New Forest ponies have died from acorn poisoning this autumn after a bumper crop of the nut fell in the national park.

Authorities have turned out around 450 pigs, which eat the acorns, to try and limit the deaths of the ponies which find the nut toxic as it causes liver damage and then death.

Jonathan Gerrelli, from the Verderers Office, which looks after the welfare of the ponies, said:

"We have had a number of ponies die which has been attributed to acorn poisoning.

"It's something that does happen at this time of year with the death of one or two ponies but this year seems to be a bad year simply because there has been a good crop of acorns.

"There are thousands of oak trees in the forest and there is nothing you can do to stop the ponies from eating them.''

Mr Gerrelli explained that acorns are also toxic to cattle and donkeys and that the pigs' job is to eat up as many of the nuts as possible.

"The one help we have got are the pigs. They are quite happy to eat the acorns,'' he added.

It is thought about 4,000 ponies wander in the New Forest. They are owned by commoners, who are forest residents with grazing rights in the national park.

The practice of turning out the pigs to eat the acorns is called pannage and has been going on in the forest for centuries.