Merlin the tawny owl 'stolen', sparking fears for bird's welfare

An owl that has been in captivity since it was a chick has reportedly been stolen, sparking fears for its welfare.

Merlin, the tawny owl, who is nearly 30, has disappeared from his flight pen at Wimbledon and Putney Commons in southwest London.

Wimbledon and Putney Commons, which looks after the green space, says it is "hugely concerned for his welfare".

A message on the charity's website reads: "We are devastated to report that we believe our tawny owl, Merlin, has been stolen from his flight pen.

"Merlin has been in captivity since he was a chick and is now almost 30 years old. We are hugely concerned for his welfare.

"Having investigated his disappearance, we know that he could not have escaped and there is no evidence that he has been attacked by a fox, or any other predator. The police have therefore been advised.

"Please please please, if anyone knows anything about his disappearance we implore you to get in touch. We will treat any information received with confidence. We are just desperate to get him back safely."

Much of Wimbledon and Putney Commons, which covers four separate local areas, is a site of special scientific interest and a special area of conservation, the website added.

Comprising woodland, scrubland, heathland and mown recreation areas, it is home to a wide variety of bird, animal and plant life and, as an unfenced common, the whole area is open to the public 24 hours a day throughout the year.

Around 10,000 people visit the commons "on an average summer weekend", the site said.

Sky News has approached the Met Police for comment.