Update, 11:00pm EST: Rufus has been found! The Daily Mail reports that on Sunday, Rufus was handed in to the RSPCA and was back with his owners by 8:00pm. His traveling box was spotted abandoned in a hedge just north of the All England Lawn Tennis Club. Someone contacted the manufacturer, Falcon Fabrication, who was told that “the box was in Southfields, South-West London, and that it contained ‘an eagle.’”
Said a message posted on Rufus’ Twitter feed on Sunday night: “Thank you, thank you, thank you all. We are truly overwhelmed by your lovely messages & cannot explain how relieved and ecstatic we are!”
Rufus, a Harris hawk who patrols the skies above Wimbledown to scare off pigeons, was stolen with his cage between last Thursday and Friday night. He was in the back seat of a car on a private drive in his traveling box, which is cool and where he often falls asleep; the car’s rear window had been rolled down for ventilation. Rufus is also a family pet and police have sent out a call to the public to find him.
Rufus, who is four years old, deters pigeons (simply by his presence) from above the All England Lawn Tennis Club during the tennis championships at Wimbledon. The BBC describes him as “something of a Wimbledon fixture,” with his own Facebook page and a Twitter account; visitors frequently stop to meet him and take photos with him.
Rufus’s owner and handler, Imogen Davies, of Avian Environmental Consultants, said that she is based elsewhere (in Corby, Northamptonshire) and had left the hawk in the car as she and Rufus needed to start work at the All England Club at 05:30am BST. About the abduction of Rufus, Davies said,
“It’s hard to get your head around. We just want to know he’s ok.
“I thought it [keeping him in the car overnight] was something that was going to be fine for him and secure. If I could change something I would. If I could, I would have put him next to my bed.”
A falconry glove and a hood had also been stolen, but not expensive radio scanning equipment used to track Rufus and binoculars.
While noting that a bird like Rufus is worth about £250, Davies emphasized that “you couldn’t put a value on him to us.”
One of Rufus’ “pals,” a hawk named Hector, has been drafted to take over his duties. But hopefully Rufus can get back to work soon.
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Photo by exfordy