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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Harry Potter blamed for fuelling India owls' demise


Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has blamed fans of boy wizard Harry Potter for their role in the dwindling number of wild owls.

He said that Harry Potter books and films featuring his feathered friend Hedwig are popular in India and had contributed towards the demise of owls.



Mr Ramesh said there had been an increase in people wanting to buy them from illegal bird traders.

He was speaking to mark the launch of a report on India's owl population.

Written by the leading conservation group, Traffic, the report calls for tougher measures to protect owls ahead of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, which is being celebrated on Friday.

It says that thousands of owls are traditionally sacrificed on "auspicious" occasions.

'Strangest demands'

"Following Harry Potter, there seems to be a strange fascination even among the urban middle classes for presenting their children with owls," Mr Ramesh said.


Owls play an important role in Harry Potter films Harry Potter publishers Bloomsbury declined to comment on Mr Ramesh's assertions.

The report's author, Abrar Ahmed, wrote that he decided to investigate the owl trade after being asked by a friend to procure a live white-coloured owl for her son's Harry Potter-themed 10th birthday party.

"This was probably one of the strangest demands made to me as an ornithologist," he wrote.

His research found that growing number of owls, a highly endangered species in India, are now being trapped, traded or killed in black magic rituals.

The report says that half of India's 30 species of owl can be found on sale in markets.

Others are killed for medicinal purposes.

"The sacrifice of owls on auspicious occasions appears to be a regular practice and [there could be] a possible increase in trade and sacrifices around Diwali," the Imperilled Custodians of the Night report says.

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