A stranded ram is now enjoying pastures new in New Zealnd after a dramatic jet-powered boat rescue, organised by Laura Phillips, the manager of the Dannevirke SPCA. The local SPCA was first made aware of a stranded sheep at the Manawatu Gorge 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 Laura, husband Jason and Richard, travelling 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 the 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 grabbed 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 with their unusual jet boat cargo.
How the ram came to be stranded is unknown, but one man said 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."