The ‘loneliest sheep’ 54,000 people want saved and why a hovercraft may help

The ‘loneliest sheep’ 54,000 people want saved and why a hovercraft may help

Related video: Flock of sheep replaces cars in Madrid

ZMG - Buzz60 / VideoElephant

A sheep dubbed “Britain’s loneliest sheep” has sparked a petition and plans for a rescue operation, amid concerns for its welfare (it has an overgrown fleece) while living near Brora in the Scottish Highlands.

The sheep was reportedly first spotted by kayaker Jill Turner back in 2021, then again this year, and after the animal was said to have “bleated out” to the kayakers, members of the public believe “it is clear that this ewe is in need of assistance”.

More than 54,000 members of the public, in fact.

The petition – titled “Rescue Britain’s lonelist sheep stranded on Scottish cliffs” – was set up by Edoardo L’Astorina and reads: “Its overgrown fleece can cause serious health problems including infection, heat stress and difficulty moving to find food.

“We want to take this to the Scottish SPCA and show them how many of us care about this lonely animal and help raise funds for professional animal rescuers who have the skills and resources necessary for such a challenging rescue operation.”

In their initial response to calls to help out on Tuesday, the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (effectively Scotland’s version of the RSPCA, though they are separate charities in their own right) acknowledged the sheep dilemma and said they are continuing to “proactively seek a solution to help the stranded sheep”.

“This is an incredibly complex rescue due to the inaccessibility of the land by both land and sea and we are working to find a way to help the sheep without compromising the safety of the rescue team and the welfare of the animal.

“Our team are continually monitoring the sheep and can confirm it has ample grazing and water and isn’t in any immediate danger. We do however want to reach the sheep as soon, and as safely, as possible.”

As pressure mounted on the relevant organisations to carry out the ‘rescewe’ (sorry), the SSPCA issued another statement on Thursday in which they said they have been “offered the support of a local farmer” amid the animal lacking a tag, but that they haven’t found a “suitable solution” to the situation which doesn’t risk the safety of rescue teams.

“As this is not a domestic animal, both the coastguard and mountain rescue team are unable to assist in this matter. We have also spoken with a local skipper who has advised it would be extremely difficult to land a boat in the area.

“The sheep will be very difficult to catch without gates and hurdles and is likely to be fearful and run away. If the sheep becomes too distressed, there is the possibility they may run into the sea, which will present further challenges,” it reads.

The organisation went on to add that there is additional difficulties around the sheep’s fleece, which makes it hard to “temporarily sedate” the animal.

While the SSPCA have been “given some contact information” about businesses which may be able to help with the rescue – which they are exploring – they also said that the rescue “will not go ahead” if the situation is deemed “too unsafe” for either the sheep or the rescue team.

However, help may come in the most unusual form: a hovercraft.

Benn Bristow, from the British Hovercraft Company, said the reason why “boats can’t get anywhere near” the animal is because “there’s quite a few rocks and stuff in the way”.

He continued: “By the look of it the hovercraft will fly straight over the top so we can get someone directly to where the sheep is located. We’re used to navigating in difficult terrain and looking in places where people wouldn’t normally get to: marshland, etc.

“Anywhere a boat can’t go and anywhere a person can’t walk, a hovercraft can go.”

The Daily Record reports that the company is looking for funding for its rescue operation.

As such, the tricky situation, unfortunately, remains unresolved at the time of writing.

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