An appeal to buy a herd of ponies to aid wildlife conservation has exceeded its total in just a week.
The £9,200 target will be used by Durham Wildlife Trust (DWT) to purchase 12 Exmoor ponies to graze on its nature reserves such as Rainton Meadows, at Fence Houses, near Houghton-le-Spring.
An additional £800 plus will be set aside to create a pony welfare fund to contribute towards their ongoing care and management.
Their arrival will help maintain the reserves and allow staff to concentrate on other duties.
Exmoor ponies are hardy, native breed ponies well suited to conservation grazing.
Their double-layered winter coat means that they can withstand hostile winter conditions while their ability graze on encroaching rank grasses and their tendency to browse means that they naturally improve the species diversity of the sites they inhabit.
A total of £4,200 was donated to the campaign by charitable organisation The John Spedan Lewis Foundation.
DWT trustee Michael Coates, 51, the managing director of a Durham management consultancy, quickly added £250 in memory of his mother, Mimi, who passed away last month.
Another £2,500 was also donated by Robin and Sue Laycock, DWT members and local wildlife enthusiasts from Darlington, bringing the total raised by the crowdfunding appeal to just over £10,000.
DWT chair Steve Gater said: “It is good to know that so many people are interested in their local wildlife.
“We are privileged to live in a region that has some very special animals and plants, alongside more common species. Durham Wildlife Trust is doing all that it can to protect and conserve wildlife now and for the future.
“Traditional grazing with Exmoor ponies is one of many actions that the trust is undertaking. I would like to thank all those who have very kindly contributed to our Pony Appeal.”
For more information or to make a donation to the Pony Appeal please visit www.durhamwt.com/ponyappeal or telephone (0191) 5843112.