Why ravenous ravens are leaving the Tower of London

Since the onset of the pandemic, the famous birds have been starved of company - and food - at Britain's ancient prison

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A worried raven master is urging tourists to return to the Tower of London, fearing that the fate of both the Tower and Britain itself are at stake.

Historically, it was escaping from the Norman-built tower in the heart of the capital that often proved problematic. And the handful of inmates who did take flight were often recaptured and summarily beheaded.

Perhaps knowledge of the gruesome fate of their human counterparts has discouraged the Tower of London's famously parochial raven population from making similarly disastrous attempts.

But, in an ominous turn of events, it has been reported that two of the castle's seven ravens have started to venture beyond its precincts in search of grub.

According to a decree by King Charles II, six ravens must be "kept at the tower or the kingdom will fall".

The birds, called Merlina and Jubilee (the others, with one spare, are Harris, Gripp, Rocky, Erin, Poppy) - have unsettled the tower's resident ravenmaster.

Christopher Skaife firmly believes in the legend that the building erected by William the Conqueror will crumble - along with the kingdom - should the ravens ever leave.

"The tower is only the tower when the people are here," Mr Skaife told The Sun. "If the ravens were to leave, the tower would crumble to dust."

He is so worried that he has even been urging the Beefeaters who guard the site to feed leftovers to the birds. He has also bought teddy bears, footballs and squeaky dog toys in a desperate attempt to ward off the birds' flight.

With more than two million annual visitors in recent years, the chances of the legend coming to pass had been slim to none. Ravens are notorious scavengers, and the incessant supply of tourist-generated litter offered the birds more tasty morsels than they could ever feast on.

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic changed all that. Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the historical jail under lock and key on March 23, and all of a sudden the ravens' gravy train came to a shuddering halt. The tower reopened on July 10 but its usual 15,000 visitors a day has dropped to 800.

"Even in World War Two, there were still hundreds [of visitors] in and around," Mr Skaife said.

For the sake of the distressed ravenmaster, the emaciating ravens, and the future of the UK itself, it can only be hoped that visitor numbers pick up soon.