Search Site
771 NAS SAR Sea King
Rescue team and Calf on beach
Rescue team on beach
Calf in Net ready to lift
771 NAS Sea King with under slung Calf

Lucky calf rescued on The Lizard

Published: 27 Jan 2014

The RSPCA co-ordinated a dramatic rescue with the help of a Sea King from 771 Naval Air Squadron, of a young calf who fell a hundred feet over a cliff into an inaccessible cove below the Lizard lighthouse in Cornwall following a landslip.

The ‘Lucky’ heifer, a seven month old Dexter, appeared relatively unharmed had been stuck in the cove for five days as rescuers consulted the RSPCA, RNLI and Cornwall Fire and Rescue services. The call to the RSPCA on Friday 17 January came from the farmer who had been grazing a small herd of the red-coated 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. 

After carrying out an assessment to see if it was possible to extract the Calf by boat the RNLI concluded that the shoreline and approach to the cove were too rocky to put personnel ashore. “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,” said Chief inspector Neil Thomas. “A team of eight comprising four RSPCA members, an animal welfare officer, two Royal Naval personnel from RNAS Culdrose and a vet descended into the cove.”

It was decided that the only way to rescue the Calf would have to be with the help of the Royal Navy. 771 NAS, Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose’s Search and Rescue Unit were on hand to assist as part of a Training sortie for just such an occasion. 

 Neil Thomas continued, “The weather was pretty dreadful, wet and squally with the ground well 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.” 

Weighing -in at about 100 kilos the heifer took a number of people to catch and guide it gently into position on a tarpaulin placed over a helicopter cargo net. It was then sedated by the vet and the rescue helicopter 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 cliff top 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 and frequent very heavy showers. The skill and courage shown by the helicopter crew in these conditions was absolutely remarkable and deserving of special 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.”


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