When it comes to India's disappearing owls, don't blame Voldemort. Blame Harry Potter. The boy wizard's famous owl Hedwig has helped, in part, to create a black market for the highly endangered species.
"Following Harry Potter, there seems to be a strange fascination even among the urban middle classes for presenting their children with owls," said Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, according to the BBC.
Ramesh made the comments during a presentation by the conservation group Traffic — which offered a new study on the black market demand for the birds.
In addition to pets, owls are often used in black magic rituals connected to the Hindu celebration of Diwali. "Shaman or black magic practitioners frequently referred to as tantriks in India, prescribe the use of owls and their body parts such as skull, feathers, ear tuffs, claws, heart, liver, kidney, blood, eyes, fat, beak, tears, eggshells, meat and bones for ceremonial pujas and rituals," the report states.
“Diwali should be a time for celebration across our nation, not one when our wildlife is plundered to feed ignorant superstition,” Ramesh added in comments.
Wildlife SOS, another animal-rescue group, told the Sify news service in India that it is receiving several calls from people asking if owls can be kept as pets. "Owls are commonly poached for black magic," responded Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS. "But, yes, people have become curious after reading 'Harry Potter' books, where mystical energy of owls has been shown."
Traffic is calling for tougher measures to protect the bird ahead of Diwali, which starts Friday.