A thermal imaging drone helped rescue a dog in dramatic circumstances – after she had spent five days trapped down the hole of a Cwmtillery mountain.
RSPCA Cymru, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Gwent Police, Resource Group Unmanned Aviation Services and numerous volunteers all worked together to find the Chihuahua, named Cherry.
She went missing on 15 March, while walking on Mynydd James, within the Welsh Valleys mountain range.
Her absence led to wide-ranging efforts to locate Cherry, including a fundraising drive – with £1,250 donated by members of the public in just one day.
Searchers were boosted by the sounds of a dog barking heard on the mountain on 19 March. A thermal imaging camera was utilised, by Resource Group Unmanned Aviation Services, the following day – attached to an unmanned aircraft, and the dog was quickly located.
Cherry was found trapped down a mountain hole, with an RSPCA grasper used to help bring her to safety, and she was returned to her loving owners.
She has now been checked over by a vet, and – though very tired – is doing well, after the remarkable ordeal.
RSPCA inspector Izzi Hignell, who worked on the rescue, said: “We are so relieved that Cherry has been found safe and well, and is now back with her family.
“This was a truly remarkable rescue effort, which shows the strength of feeling across the community towards animals, and the importance people attach to keeping them safe.
“Cherry was located down a mountain hole using a thermal imaging camera, and then – thankfully – it was possible to rescue her using a grasper device.
“We worked with so many agencies to help Cherry, and the public response to the campaign to find her was heartening. It was an incredible experience to be involved in, and amazing to play a part in such a happy ending.”
Katinka Slingsby, Cherry’s owner, said: “The rescue was absolutely incredible, and we are so overwhelmed by the levels of support from agencies and the public.
“We are so grateful to everyone involved. Animals are my life, and it means the world to have Cherry safely back with us.
“Fortunately, whilst Cherry has lost a little weight and is exceptionally tired, she is doing so well.”
Remote pilot Lucy Morgan and Thermal Camera Operator Daniel Veg were the representatives from Resource Group Unmanned Aviation Services who took part in Cherry’s rescue.
John Larkin, of Resource Group Unmanned Aviation Services, added: ”We are delighted to have been able to reunite Cherry with her owner. Using thermal imaging cameras mounted to one of our unmanned aircraft we were able to locate Cherry within 20 minutes. This just goes to show the wide spread applications of drone technology from aerial inspection and surveying to search and rescue situations; highlighting the breadth of our Unmanned Aviation Services.”
Policing Inspector Lysha Thompson, who assisted with the rescue, said: “We received an e-mail from the family on Monday explaining the search for Cherry and the tremendous community support they had been receiving through their Facebook campaign. On reading this and looking at the circumstances over the past five days, it was quite clear that we needed to help, not only to help find Cherry but to also minimise the risk to those that were turning up on a daily basis, often in treacherous conditions, to assist in the search for Cherry.
“The response I received from our partner agencies including the Fire Service and Search and Rescue teams was phenomenal! The RSPCA and police officers who also attended, were able to respond quickly to the sighting by the drone, the result being a really happy ending for all, not least Cherry! This positive outcome was clearly driven by members of the community who pulled together with the family over the past few days and they should all be incredibly proud of themselves.
“Whilst the Police have many priorities, there are none greater than being there to help people when we can and my colleagues and I are just incredibly glad that Cherry is back home.”
Aberbargoed Fire and Rescue Station Manager Stuart Griffiths commented:
“On arrival it soon became apparent that a dog had fallen through a crevice in the mountainside some days earlier & had been stuck there ever since. Searchers from the local community had managed to locate the dog amongst the many crevices in the mountain, due to them hearing her barking.
“When we arrived at the mountain top attempts had been made to retrieve the dog unsuccessfully. We were very fortunate to have so many enthusiastic people on site to help us. By using the grasper device provided by the RSPCA we were able to reach down into the hole & entice Cherry into the loop of the grasper device by dropping food down to her. On the third occasion of her stepping into the loop we were able to safely lift her out of the crevice.
“This was a tremendous effort made by the local community, & it was extremely rewarding for all who helped in the successful rescue Cherry. We are all very pleased that she is in good shape & will fully recover from her adventure.”