Wimbledon hawk Rufus stolen from car

 

The hawk that patrols Wimbledon to deter pigeons has been stolen, police said.

Detectives are investigating the theft of Harris Hawk Rufus, who was stolen along with his cage overnight between Thursday and Friday from a car parked in Wimbledon.

A spokesman said Rufus was in the car parked on a private drive in Dunstall Road with the rear window open for ventilation.

The hawk, which deters pigeons at the All England Club purely by his presence, is also a family pet, he said.

"The family has become very attached to the bird who is now four-and-a-half years old.

"They are distressed over the theft and are appealing for help to recover the bird."

Rufus has become a well-known fixture at the south-west London club, with visitors often stopping to ask for photos with the hawk.

He even has his own Twitter account, but has not tweeted for a day.

His last tweet was before Rafael Nadal's shock exit from the tournament, when he said: "Murray is through, Rafa is down 2-1 (!), Ward played brilliantly but lost to Mardy Fish, and Italy are beating Germany 1-0!"

Owner Imogen Davis, 25, said they were still in shock after Rufus' disappearance.

"It's really, really sad," she said. "He was taken in his travelling box, which is where he sleeps because it's nice and dark and cool and he can fall asleep in there.

"We're very, very shocked, we just want to know he's okay."

She said they have reared four-year-old Rufus as part of the family-run business Avian Environmental Consultants.

"We work as a team together. To have him taken away like that is just horrible," she added.

"It's a family business, the birds are brought up around us. They're part of the family. It's just the way it is."

Ms Davis said she originally thought it was a prank, but was not sure as a falconry glove and falconry hood were stolen at the same time.

"Initially I was almost hoping that it was a prank because there was more possibility of us getting him back, and somebody would realise it was a stupid thing to do," she added.

"But because the hood and the glove were taken, I'm not sure. I suppose at least it means he's been looked after."

Rufus is a Harris Hawk, an American species. Hawking was first introduced to the All England Club in 1999 as an environmentally-friendly method of pest control.

Pigeons are not the Harris Hawk's natural prey, and they are trained not to attack but to circle and fly around the courts to scare the birds.

Rufus is flown each morning and evening of the championships before and after play, but not during, so as to avoid any distraction.

PA

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