Black magic behind illegal owl trade, says report

November 2nd, 2010 - 9:16 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 2 (IANS) Use of owls in black magic and sorcery driven by superstition, is one of the prime drivers of the covert owl trade in India and cases of hunting of owls increases before Diwali, a report released here said Tuesday.

Traffic India’s report titled ‘Imperilled Custodians of the Night’ was launched by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

“Owl is a highly endangered species protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 of India. The owls are being killed for black magic especially during Diwali and other festivals,” said Ramesh.

While the exact number of owls traded each year countrywide is unknown, it certainly runs into thousands of individuals and there are anecdotal reports of owls becoming rare throughout India due to loss of suitable habitat, especially old growth forests.

“Owls are as important to our ecosystem as the tigers, lion and elephants. It is important that the threat to the species is brought to light on the festival of Diwali and concrete on-ground action is undertaken to curb its trade,” said Ramesh.

Ramesh said there has been a strange fascination among affluent class to present their children owls, probably inspired by Harry Potter books and movie where the protagonist Harry has a pet owl.

Of the 30 owl species recorded from India, 15 have been recorded by this study in the domestic live bird trade.

According to report, black magic practitioners prescribe the use of owls and their body parts such as skull, feathers, claws, heart, liver, kidney, blood, eyes, beak, eggshells, meat and bones for ceremonial rituals.

However, the trade includes both large and small owl species inhabiting areas as varied as urban settings and forests with main centres for the illicit trade located in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Bihar.

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