Farmer dismayed as harassment by visitors leads to death of newborn foal
14th September 2023
A farmer in the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) near Swansea is pleading to visitors to follow the Countryside Code and keep a safe distance away from wildlife after a newborn foal was forced over a cliff edge by selfie-takers.
Native ponies have been grazing the cliffs of Gower AONB for generations and are an integral part of the local ecosystem. Despite their wild nature, in recent years, there have been increasing reports of the animals being harassed by holiday-goers looking to escape to the countryside.
Local farmer Nicky Beynon, whose family looks after a group of ponies grazing on common land, is concerned for the animals’ future after a horrific incident involving selfie-takers led to the death of a newborn foal this April.
Mr Beynon was quoted by the BBC as saying: “They all want to take a photograph, but they don’t realise what they’re doing – the amount of stress they’re putting on the animal.”
He said the foal’s mother gave birth just a couple hundred yards from the cliff edge, and visitors were trying to take pictures of the pair while forcing them closer and closer to the edge.
“All of a sudden the new-born is staggering to its feet, trying to learn how to stand up, and trips over the edge,” he told the BBC.
“The mare who lost her foal over the cliff, she’s quite a sharp sort of sensitive mare. The foal had gone over about half an hour before I found her and she was just going ballistic. She knew the foal had just vanished.”
Following the tragic event, Mr Beynon removed all of his mares from the headland so the animals could foal safely. He has previously had to stop grazing sheep in the area due to repeated dog attacks and losing a sheep to a visitor’s German Shepherd.
The National Coastwatch Institution, which oversees the land where the ponies are grazing, said it has to deal with the public on a daily basis who go dangerously close to the animals.
The organisation wrote on social media: “It was only recently we had to transport a young lady up to the car park after she had been kicked by a stallion near our hut. We did what we could, first aid-wise, but she found walking difficult.”
To prevent further accidents and close calls, the National Trust also urged the public to respect wildlife and livestock grazing on common land and follow the Countryside Code when spending time in nature.