LONDON: Chris Skaife has one of the crucial necessary jobs in Britain. As Yeoman Warder Ravenmaster on the Tower of London, he’s liable for the nation’s most well-known birds.
In response to legend firmly rooted in Britain’s collective creativeness, if all of the ravens have been to depart the Tower, the dominion would collapse and the nation be plunged into chaos.
Coronavirus lockdown restrictions noticed vacationer sights throughout the nation shut their doorways, together with the imposing 1,000-year-old royal fortress on the banks of the River Thames.
That left Skaife with an unprecedented problem of the right way to entertain the celebrated avian residents, who abruptly discovered themselves with nobody to play with — or rob meals from.
It additionally raised fears the birds — generally known as the guardians of the Tower — would fly away to attempt to discover tasty morsels elsewhere, and worse nonetheless, danger the legend coming to cross.
There are eight ravens in captivity within the Tower of London: Merlina, Poppy, Erin, Jubilee, Rocky, Harris, Gripp and George.
A royal decree, purportedly issued within the 17th century, said there should be six on web site at anyone time however Skaife mentioned he retains two as “spares”, “simply in case”.
They’re free to roam the grounds however to forestall them from flying too far, their wings are trimmed again barely.
Again in March when lockdown started, Skaife — who’s in his 50s and a retired employees sergeant and former drum main within the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment — was furloughed.
However he nonetheless got here to work to take care of his majestic feathered costs, rotating feeding and caring duties along with his three assistants.
“Throughout that time period, the ravens did not truly see anyone,” he informed AFP.
“There have been slight modifications that I observed. As an illustration, I needed to maintain them occupied with out the general public being there (and) there have been much less issues for them to do.
“So I gave them enrichment toys that will assist them take pleasure in their day.”
With no individuals round, he put balloons, ladders and even mirrors of their cages to maintain them entertained, and hid meals across the Tower grounds for them to search out.
Breakfast time entails Skaife, within the distinctive black and crimson uniform of the “Beefeaters”, distributing a meal of chicks and mice, which the ravens cheerfully devour.
Skaife’s favorite is Merlina, he reveals with a smile.
She has grow to be an web favorite from his frequent posts and movies of her on his Instagram and Twitter accounts, which have greater than 120,000 followers.
As soon as feeding time is over, he opens the cages on the south garden to permit them to stretch their wings.
The Tower reopened its doorways on July 10 however the pandemic has had a devastating impact on customer numbers.
Some 60,000 individuals visited the Tower each week in October 2019 however it’s now solely 6,000, in keeping with Historic Royal Palaces, which manages the location.
Through the three-month nationwide lockdown, Skaife mentioned the ravens got extra freedom to discover different components of the Tower.
However to be doubly positive they did not fly off utterly, their wings have been clipped again additional.
The birds at the moment are saved of their cages extra usually to ensure they eat sufficient, as there are slim pickings from the Tower’s garbage bins due to the diminished footfall.
“I do not notably like doing it,” mentioned Skaife.
He says the ravens could also be saved in cages however the Tower is their actual house.
“So, I’d by no means wish to maintain a raven in an enclosure.”
Now, as life returns to a semblance of normality, the ravens are re-adapting to seeing extra people once more and their previous routine.
Skaife has sorted the ravens for the final 14 years, tending to their wants out of clear affection but in addition out of a way of historic and patriotic responsibility.
“In fact, we do not need the legend to return true,” he mentioned.

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