TWO sheep have been rescued in dramatic fashion from a Pembrokeshire sea cliff by a specialist RSPCA rope team.
The animal welfare charity was contacted by a farmer, who had made an unsuccessful attempt to reach the two ewes who had strayed down the cliffside close to the coastal footpath at Deadman’s Bay near to Skomer Island.
The animals had been stranded for 10 days and as they had fallen some distance apart from each other, the nine-strong RSPCA team drawn from across Wales, Devon, Cornwall and the Midlands needed to mount two separate rope rescues to save both sheep from falling onto the rocks and raging sea below.
RSPCA inspectors Andrew Harris, Gemma Cooper, Suzy Hannaby, Alan Barnes, Mark Roberts, Vicki Taylor and Nayman Dunderdale were joined by chief inspector Richard Abbott and animal rescue officer Marie Stevens for the carefully-planned operation, with each rescue taking around two hours to complete on February 16.
The team anchored their ropes to the chassis of their vans, which were parked on the headland, before climbing around 20 metres (more than 60 ft) down the cliff to reach the stricken pair.
One of the ewes can be seen in the video (attached) moving perilously close to the edge of a rock ledge before she was caught by inspector Harris. She was then winched up to safety in a protective animal bag along with the other sheep, who was rescued from a long sweeping face of rock some 50 metres (164ft) away from her pal.
RSPCA animal rescue officer Harris said: “We assessed the situation and could clearly see these two sheep were not going to get back up the cliff on their own. They were too far down the face and we would normally have launched our sea boat to reach them, but the conditions at the time meant that wasn’t possible.
“But we have a team of specially trained officers that we can draw from across England and Wales and we assembled six rope officers, a rope technician and a rope operator to undertake the rescue. That had to be done quickly because of the length of time the sheep had been stuck for, although operations like this do take several days to plan.
“We were able to catch both of the ewes and fortunately they were okay, although a bit the worse the wear as they had been down there for some time. They were checked out and returned to the farmer and she was very grateful and even kindly said she would be making a donation to the RSPCA, which was good to hear as these types of rescues are costly to undertake.”
It is not known how the ewes ended up on such dangerous terrain. It is not unusual for sheep to graze on cliff tops. But also the RSPCA reminds dog owners they need to consider livestock and keep their pets on leads and check for farm animals in fields.
“We do have about five or six of these types of rescues every year in this coastal region and they are technically difficult and very physically demanding,” added Andrew. “All our specialist officers receive training in rope techniques to Rescue 3 standards every year to make sure everything goes to plan.”