Missing Wimbledon hawk Rufus found
The hawk that patrols the skies of Wimbledon has been returned to its owners after it was snatched by thieves during the first week of the tennis tournament.
Harris hawk Rufus, who deters pigeons from the All England Club, was stolen along with his cage overnight between Thursday and Friday.
But he has been handed in to the RSPCA Animal Hospital in Putney, south west London, and was on Sunday night safely back in his owners' hands.
Owner Imogen Davis, 25, said: "We have Rufus back, safe and well. We are ecstatic and so, so overwhelmed with all the lovely messages and help we have received."
A Met Police spokeswoman confirmed Rufus was handed into Putney Hospital. She said the four-year-old has a slightly sore leg and will have a few days rest before he starts working again.
Rufus, reared as part of the family-run business Avian Environmental Consultants, was taken from a car parked on a private drive in Dunstall Road, Wimbledon, with the rear window open for ventilation.
He has become a well-known fixture at the south-west London club, with visitors often stopping to ask for photos with the hawk, and even has his own Twitter account, written by his owners. It said: "We can confirm the news is true RUFUS HAS BEEN FOUND safe and well & reunited with family!! Thank you so much for your support #FindRufus".
"We are so overwhelmed by all your support. #findrufus has work, Rufus is healthy & well... we are SO excited/happy/relieved..."
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, to avoid any distraction.