Is the world’s most famous boy-wizard responsible for a major wildlife trafficking crisis in India? That’s the story running in the news media this weekend after Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh commented on a new report out by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network. But according to the report, poaching for black magic rituals that have nothing to do with J.K. Rowling’s popular series is the biggest threat to India’s wild owls.
Report author and ornithologist Abrar Ahmed relates an anecdote in the preface about being asked to provide a snowy owl for a Harry Potter-themed birthday party. The inquiry was part of the inspiration for writing the comprehensive report on the plight of India’s owls. Unfortunately, many major news outlets don’t seem to have read any further into the report.
“The TRAFFIC investigation also finds that besides black magic, owls are trapped and traded for use in street performances; killed for taxidermy and for their meat; their parts are used in folk medicines; even their claws and feathers are sometimes used in headgear. Live owls are also used as decoys to catch other bird species.” The author details some of the inhumane practices employed in trapping and transport before the poor creatures meet their end, sometimes in ritual ceremonies during Diwali, the Festival of Lights, which started Friday.
Mr. Ramesh attended the launch of the report, “Imperilled Custodians of the Night,” and also said the following: “Owls are as important to our ecosystem as the Tigers or any other better known charismatic species. It is important that the threat to owls is brought to light during the festival of Diwali and concrete ground action is undertaken to curb such trade,” according to the TRAFFIC web site.
The owl report, which was sponsored by WWF and the Rufford Foundation, recommends much stricter enforcement of India’s existing wildlife capture and trade laws, rehabilitation of recovered owls, and public education to reduce demand.
First, pledge not to buy exotic animals as pets. Abandoned pet owls are a trend that sanctuaries in the UK would like to stop, but owls aren’t the only exotic animal that makes a terrible pet. Wild animals belong in the wild.
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