'Britain's loneliest sheep', Fiona, makes new home down south
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Dubbed ‘Britain’s Loneliest Sheep’, the plight of a ewe stuck on a remote shore near Sutherland was first highlighted by the Northern Times back in October.
The animal, which has now been rescued and named “Fiona”, captured interest worldwide – and has been given a new home 270 miles south at Dalscone Farm in Dumfries.
The epic rescue took place after a group of five men, led by a sheep shearer from Ayrshire, managed to haul her up a steep slope from the foot of cliffs on the Cromarty Firth in a dramatic mission.
Animal lover and Brora resident Jillian Turner first spotted the sheep two years ago during a paddling trip from Balintore to Nigg with East Sutherland Canoe and Kayak Club.
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Ms Turner did not think too much about it at that point, but when the canoe club took the same journey again recently, she was horrified to see that the animal was still there.
She said: “The poor ewe has been on her own for at least two years – for a flock animal that has to be torture, and she seemed desperate to make contact with us on the two occasions we’ve gone past her.”
A petition calling for a rescue operation gathered more than 55,000 signatures.
Her eventual rescuer, Cammy Wilson, who is also a presenter on the BBC’s Landward programme, was prompted to help after seeing media coverage of the ewe’s plight.
The group used a winch mounted on a truck parked at the top of the cliff, 200m of rope and a feed bag fashioned into a makeshift sling to guide her up the rock face.
Mr Wilson said:"She's in incredible condition. She is about a condition score of about 4.5. She is overfat - it was some job lifting her up that slope."
Ms Turner welcomed the rescue.
She added: “I am very emotional as it’s been a very stressful time. I gave such a shriek over the news she had been rescued that it gave my husband a fright!”
But animal rights campaigners Animal Rising say that the rescue usurped their own planned attempt to rescue the animal, criticising the sheep's transfer to Dumfries.
Animal Rising supporter, Jamie Moyes, said:“It is completely unacceptable that she would be taken to a ‘petting zoo’ when she has already suffered for the last two years. We reached an agreement with the landowner for her to be rescued and taken to a safe and peaceful sanctuary, but he went behind our back to make a spectacle of her instead.
"Petting zoos can be stressful for any animal, but especially for one that has lived alone for the last two years."
The Scottish SPCA said it had been aware of the ewe being stranded for some time but was unable to find a safe way to rescue her.
A spokesperson for the charity said:”Thankfully the sheep is in good bodily condition, aside from needing to be sheared. She will now be taken to a specialist home within Scotland to rest and recover.”