NATIVE cattle are being reintroduced at two former quarry sites on the Isle of Wight as part of a new rewilding project to create richer habitats for wildlife.

A small herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle are now grazing at St George’s Down near Newport, and from Spring 2022, Hereford-cross will arrive at Prospect Quarry near Shalcombe.

The cows will help maintain species-rich habitats by controlling the growth of more aggressive plants that would otherwise take over.

Both sites are environmentally important locations, with St George’s Down designated a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) and Prospect Quarry a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The rewilding programme is being run by Wight Building Materials, in partnership with Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) and Natural England.

The introduction of native cattle provides a natural way of controlling scrub while also helping to create a habitat for insects and small mammals through the way the animals use their tongues to lift tufts of grass rather than grazing close to the ground.

Deborah Whitfield, senior nature-based solutions manager at HIWWT, said: “We are so pleased to see grazing returning to these sites.

“The native cows will help manage the scrub and create more open areas, benefiting wildlife such as wildflowers, bees, butterflies and basking reptiles.

“Large herbivores such as cattle shape and drive natural processes and are key to creating wilder areas where nature can thrive.”

Mark Larter, from Natural England, said: “Prospect Quarry is a little known but nationally important site and supports one of the few remaining tiny fragments of limestone grassland left on the Island."

Steve Burton, general manager at Wight Building Materials, said: “Our work does not simply stop when a quarry closes, we take our responsibility of restoring and enhancing the land we use very seriously."