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Potter Fans Blamed for Decimating Indian Owl Population

by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Journalist India's Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh is blaming fans of Harry Potter for the dwindling number of wild owls in that country. According to the BBC, Ramesh said Harry Potter books and films feature a white owl named Hedwig, which has spawned a rash of requests for the birds from illegal bird traders. "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. The concerns were made public in advance of the release of a report on the status of India's owl population by a leading conservation group, Traffic. It is expected to call for tougher protections for the birds. The report's author, Abrar Ahmed, said 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 a growing number of owls, a highly endangered species in India, are now being trapped, traded or killed in black magic rituals. Many of these killings are done during the Hindu festival of Diwali ("festival of lights) which is being celebrated today. The Traffic report also highlights the killing of owls in "black magic and sorcery driven by superstition, totems and taboos" and claims this to be one of the "prime drivers of the covert owl trade." The report claims that black magic practitioners use owls and their body parts for ceremonial pujas and rituals. They are advising better law enforcement and increased awareness of the vital role owls play in the ecosystem, which especially benefits farmers because of the birds' predation of rodents and other crop pests. Children seeking to imitate their hero, Harry Potter, are only contributing to the problem of keeping owls alive and healthy in their native environment. Potter publisher Bloomsbury has declined to comment on Mr Ramesh's assertions. © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace®  http://www.womenofgrace.com

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