A stranded ram from the Manawatu Gorge is now enjoying pastures new after a dramatic jet boat rescue, organised by Laura Phillips, the manager of the Dannevirke SPCA.
The local SPCA was first made aware of a stranded sheep back in November last year.
"We advised the complainant to contact the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI), but after seeing a very woolly sheep in the same place myself a week ago, I contacted MPI and discovered no complaint had been lodged," Laura told the Dannevirke News. Concerned for the welfare of the sheep, Laura hatched a plan to carry out a rescue.
"Dannevirke's Richard Scrimshaw said he was happy to take on the challenge using the jet boat he'd built himself," she said.
Laura also attempted to make contact with the nearest known farmer as well as KiwiRail which is the landowner in the Manawatu Gorge.
"Having been on the isolated bank at the bottom of the gorge for so many months, the sheep was now classed as abandoned," she said. "This was now a matter of animal welfare and I knew if we were successful in rescuing the sheep it would receive veterinary attention as well as a well-earned shear."
The rescue was mounted last Thursday night, with the Dannevirke News following Laura, husband Jason and Richard, as they took to the gorge in the jet boat, searching for the sheep. But locating one very large woolly creature was one thing, persuading it to hop aboard a boat was quite another. At one stage the trio were scaling the rocks along the railway line side of the Manawatu River, trying to persuade one wary sheep to head towards the water.
"We soon realised it was a ram, so named him Woolson, but I was thinking this rescue was going to take more than one night," Laura said.
After a couple of hours, Laura and Jason nimbly scaled the cliff, chased Woolson down and Richard carried out a quick manoeuvre with his boat, rounded a corner, jumped out and nabbed Woolson who was wrestled into the boat, wearing his own life jacket.
"Richard was wonderful and the rescue had worked out so well. I'm so excited," Laura said.
And it seemed Woolson was happy to be on board, lying quietly as the trio made their way back to the reserve where excited campers snapped photos of the unusual jet boat cargo.
How the ram came to be stranded is unknown, but one man told the Dannevirke News he had seen a ewe with her lamb in a similar spot some years ago. He believes the ewe could have died and Woolson is that lamb and unable to get back up the cliff was destined for a daggy life alone.
However, now he'll have a good shear, essential in our hot summer and a dag-free life in a paddock with plenty of grass and company when he needs it.
"With an upsurge in cruelty towards animals in New Zealand, this should serve as a reminder the SPCA are here to prevent cruelty and suffering and every animal deserves to be treated with respect, whether it's the family pet, a possum or farmed animal destined for the dinner table," Laura said. "As a community we all need to ensure we are doing our bit to prevent unnecessary suffering to animals and provide them with the best quality life and a humane death.
"The Dannevirke SPCA isn't funded by the national RNZSPCA or government agencies. If you would like to help us continue to help animals throughout the Tararua by funding a full time animal welfare inspector, which we don't currently have, we'd love to hear from you."
Help the animals:
* At Givealittle.co.nz/cause/woolsonandfriends people can help donate to the Dannevirke SPCA to help more animals like Woolson.
* To help fund an animal welfare inspector for the Dannevirke SPCA phone 06 374-9849 or email Dannevirke.firstname.lastname@example.org