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Wimbledon's stolen hawk, Rufus, found safe and well

Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

Imogen Davis poses with Rufus the Hawk on day seven of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships on Monday.

Rufus, the Wimbledon hawk stolen by thieves during the first week of the tennis tournament, has been found safe and well, police in London said late Sunday.

The American Harris hawk, who deters pigeons from the All England Club, was stolen along with his box overnight between Thursday and Friday.

He was handed in to an office of the national animal charity RSPCA in Putney, south west London, and is back in his owners' hands, police said.

Ian Walton / Getty Images, file

Rufus the resident Harris Hawk keeps the courts pigeon free on Day Seven of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in this 2009 file photo.

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Hopes were raised of finding him safe after the box was spotted abandoned just north of the tennis venue on Sunday afternoon.

The news was confirmed on Rufus’ personal Twitter feed, which has been silent since his disappearance except for appeals for information.

He was taken from a car parked on a private drive in a nearby residential street, with the rear window open for ventilation.

Owner Imogen Davis said that she "could not believe" that the Hawk had been found and thanked everyone for returning him safely.

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.

ITV News is the UK partner of NBC News.

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