This rare snowy owl is having a hoot – after being nursed back from the brink of death following a lifetime of abuse and neglect.
Two-year-old Merlin lost almost all his feathers and was suffering from severe malnutrition after being neglected by his cruel owners.
An eagle owl in the same filthy cage – owned by a cruel private collector – died after months of under nourishment.
But now – thanks to the love and support of ‘Dr Doolittle’ Diane Lewis – Merlin is enjoying a new lease of life.
The bird was rescued from his home in Somerset by the RSPCA and rehomed with Diane and husband Colin Stobbs, 49, on the Isle of Arran in May.
Diane, who has no formal training, nursed Merlin back to health after watching hours of Wildlife SOS on TV and bird care videos on YouTube.
He now lives with the couple and their three other owls, Eragon and Theoden, both eagle owls, and Magic, a barn owl.
Diane said: “Merlin was so dishevelled when he first arrived we could count on one hand the number of feathers on his wings, and the ones that there were, were split.
“I think it is probably the result of the housing he was kept in. I think his enclosure must have been filthy and he must have been roughly handled.
“His appetite is incredible, he’s so grateful for every piece of food. It makes me angry that someone could treat an animal like that.
“Now he’s the picture of health. He’s my pride and joy. He is a beautiful creature.”
Diane now hopes that Merlin, who has been raised domestically and never lived in the wild, will learn to fly for the first time in the near future.
Peter Venn, manager at the RSPCA’s West Hatch Animal Rescue Centre, which rescued him initially, said: “Snowy owls are not native to Britain but are found in northern Europe.
“Usually the snowy owls we find are raised in captivity. It’s great that Merlin is doing well at his new home.”