A new report rings alarm bells for at least 15 species of Indian owls.
Apparently the night birds are being illegally traded for black magic and sorcery across eight states in India. An investigtion by WWF India into the illegal trade of owls reports that shaman or black magic practitioners prescribe the use of owls and their body parts — skull, feathers, ear tuffs, claws, heart, liver, kidney, blood, eyes, fat, beak, tears, eggshells, meat and bones — for ceremonial rituals. WWF says sacrifice of the birds is a common practice around Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, which went by last week.
Hunting of and trade in all Indian owl species is banned under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 of India.
Though the report does not have real numbers, the illegal trade is estimated to be in thousands. Larger species are most sought after, especially those with false “ear-tufts” (feather extensions on the head) thought to bestow greater magical properties on the birds. The illicit trade happens in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Bihar.
The environment minister released the report before Diwali and one hopes the owls get a follow-up thought too, in terms of stricter implementation of the act.