A beloved owl has been "stolen" from his flight pen in Wimbledon and Putney Commons and staff are “desperate to get him back safely”.

The team at the parks is appealing for help and information relating to the suspected theft of Merlin the Tawny Owl.

Merlin has been in captivity since he was a chick and is now nearly 30-years old.

He holds immense sentimental value for the centre and its staff who are deeply concerned for Merlin's welfare.

Park rangers say that there is no evidence to suggest that he may have fallen victim to a fox or any other predator and they have also ruled out the possibility of him escaping on his own.

The police are involved in the search for the missing owl.

The charity is urging anyone with information regarding Merlin's disappearance to contact them immediately.

They can be reached at 020 8788 7655 or via email at rangersoffice@wpcc.org.uk.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: "On Sunday, 25 February we received a report of theft after an owl was reportedly stolen from its pen on Wimbledon and Putney Commons. Enquiries are ongoing. "

A spokesperson for Wimbledon and Putney Commons said: “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.”