The RSPCA has co-ordinated the dramatic rescue of a young female calf who fell a hundred feet over a cliff into an inaccessible cove below the Lizard lighthouse in Cornwall following a large landslip.
The heifer, a seven month old Dexter, who miraculously appeared relatively unharmed, was stuck in the cove for five days as the rescue was planned.
The call to the RSPCA on Friday 17 January came from the farmer who had been grazing a small herd of the red-coated Dexter cows on the cliff top as part of a Natural England project.
RSPCA inspector Jon Phipps advised the farmer to drop wet hay over the cliff to ensure that the calf had adequate food and hydration while the rescue was worked out.
The next day RSPCA chief inspector Neil Thomas attended the scene with representatives of Cornwall Fire and Rescue to see if there was any possibility of winching the calf up the cliff but this was ruled out so help was sought from the nearby Royal Naval Air Station at Culdrose and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
The RNLI carried out their own assessment on Sunday 9 January but concluded that the shoreline and approach to the cove were too rocky to put personnel ashore.
However, the Royal Navy did agree to make a search and rescue helicopter available as part of a training sortie on the afternoon of Tuesday 21 January.
Chief inspector Neil Thomas said: “Myself and another rope rescue trained inspector managed to set a guide line into the cliff and work out a route down to the cove. Then a team of eight people comprising four RSPCA inspectors and one animal welfare officer, two Royal Naval ground crew and a vet descended to the cove.
“The weather was wet and squally and the ground was so saturated and unstable because of the landslip – it was OK going down but really difficult climbing back up because the ground kept giving way. “The calf was remarkably uninjured and clearly had been able to drink from rainwater puddles as well as eat the hay thrown down to it.
“It weighed around a 100kilos so it took a number of us to catch it and guide it into position on a tarpaulin placed over a cargo net. It was then sedated by the vet and the helicopter was called in.”
The calf was airlifted to a secure field at the farm on the Lizard peninsula where it was reunited with its mother and the rest of the herd.
RSPCA chief inspector Neil Thomas was full of praise for the efforts of everyone involved in the rescue including the team that stayed on the clifftop to secure the line and ensure the safety of the people below: “This rescue was carried out in appalling weather conditions with a very strong Southerly gale blowing all day and frequent very heavy showers.
“The skill and courage shown by the helicopter crew in these conditions was absolutely remarkable and deserving of recognition.
“The whole on site rescue team were extremely soggy and some very muddy at the end but all were happy that the rescue had been a success.”
To help the RSPCA carry out rescues like this you can give £3 by texting the word HELP to 78866 (texts cost £3 +one standard network rate charge).