Rampant smuggling of owls from Kerala to other parts of country

November 23rd, 2008 - 2:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Nilambur (Kerala), Nov 23 (IANS) Eleven species of owls out of the nearly three dozen commonly found in the state especially in the Western Ghat areas, are being smuggled to north India, Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, where they fetch prices ranging up to a staggering Rs 800,000. P.V. Sajeev, a member of the Forest Protection Programme Group attached to the Kerala Forest Research Institute told IANS that he came to know about the smuggling through one of his staff members.

Further investigation revealed the existence of a well-established smuggling chain, starting from those who trapped the owls and passed them on others who sold them to customers in north India and elsewhere, where the birds were mainly used in black magic rituals.

The owls that are in demand are from those species which are more than 50 cms in height and the most prized ones are those weighing 2.5 kilograms which fetch prices up to Rs 800,000.

“We have found out that these owls are used for black magic because the common belief is that since these birds have vision at night, eating the eyes of the owls would improve eye sight. Their blood is also used by those practicing black magic,” said Sajeev.

Meanwhile the Kerala State Forest department has now take note of the increasing smuggling of owls and have launched strict checks as owls come under Schedule 1 of the Wild Life Act, which makes it illegal to even rear owls at home without the prior permission of the department.

Induchoodan, district forest officer of the Munnar range said that they have come to know about the smuggling a few months back and are on an alert.

“So far our attempts to corner anyone in the trade have not yielded results but we located a person rearing an owl who said that he was approached and offered an unbelievable sum for his owls,” the official said.

The forest department is now on the job of locating agents who trade in owls and action would be taken against them, he said.

“Over the years, the owl population has come down… as a result, there is an increase in rodent population in the state,” added Induchoodan.

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