In a world where capturing the “perfect moment” has become an obsession, wildlife is paying the price. A heartbreaking incident recently occurred in Rhossili, Swansea, a headland home to free-grazing ponies. According to farmers, selfie-taking tourists and drone users forced a baby pony off a cliff, leading to its tragic death.
Local resident Nicky Benyon told the BBC that his ponies are overwhelmed by people trying to touch them and take selfies up close. This is how the tragic incident happened in April 2022.
A mare gave birth “a couple-hundred yards” from the cliff edge, according to Beynon. He added that people were gathering around the pair trying to take photos. This forced the mother 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,” Benyon explained.
“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.”
Not an isolated incident
In April 2022, Beynon had to remove ponies from the headland as someone had flown a drone merely “about 10ft above [a pony]”. The terrified pony “couldn’t make out where this noise was coming from and she was sort of spinning around.” Despite seeing what the drone was doing to the animal, the drone pilot didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. “There’s [sic] people flying drones there every day, and these things are capable of filming from hundreds of feet away, the same thing with zoom lenses,” Beynon commented. “There’s no need to touch the horse or get so close.”
A frequent visitor Louise Church also had to intervene a few times when she spotted people frightening the ponies. Not long before the tragedy, Church intervened when she noticed a man chasing a pony to snap a photo. “They’re not domestic. They’re wild animals,” she emphasized.
Church added that it’s not only the horses who are in danger due to irresponsible behavior. Humans are, too. Just a few weeks ago, she saw a family with a three-year-old girl who’d walked up to horse’s back, stroking its legs. “The parents were oblivious,” Church said. “If the horse had kicked her she would have been in serious trouble.”
Respect the wildlife
To warn the visitors about the potential dangers, The National Coastwatch Institution now issues daily warnings. They urge people to maintain a safe distance from the animals. National Trust Cymru, Gower highlighted that the area “is home to a variety of special wildlife and livestock that grazes freely across the common land and meadows.” They ask the public to respect the Countryside Code and abide by its guidelines.
As wildlife and humans coexist in these natural spaces, we must approach them with respect and caution. After all, we’ve seen more than one wild animal dying just because someone wanted to take a selfie with it. It’s sad and tragic! This story serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of not maintaining boundaries and disrespecting the natural world.