Police confirmed yesterday that Rufus – Wimbledon’s very own patrol hawk – has been stolen along with his cage sometime during Thursday night and Friday morning.
Hawks have been a regular sight at the All England Tennis Club during the two-week Wimbledon Championships having been used by the tournament organisers for the past 12 years as an environmentally friendly way to clear the lawns of smaller birds and airborne pests. Police believe that Rufus was taken from a car parked on a private driveway in the Wimbledon area, and that the thieves were able to access him via a rear window on the car that had been left open for ventilation.
Rufus, a 4 ½ year old Harris hawk, conducts daily patrols above the Wimbledon lawns where he deters smaller birds, pigeons and any other airborne pests that are likely to settle around the courts and cause distractions to both players and audience members. A family pet, Rufus has been trained to circle and scare off any potential pests in the air, but does not attack them providing a cruelty-free way of keeping the tennis courts at Wimbledon clear.
Imogen Davies, Rufus’ owner and handler, and the rest of the family are naturally very “distressed” about his disappearance, telling reporters “we just want to know he’s OK” and that even though “it would cost about £250 to buy a bird like Rufus… you couldn’t put a value on him to us”. The motives behind the theft are unclear to police at present.