Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh is blaming Hogswarts’ very own Harry Potter for the demise and dwindling number of wild owls in India. According to Ramesh, the books and films featuring Harry Potter and his owly friend Hedwig have lead to an increase in people wanting to buy owls 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.
“Following Harry Potter, there seems to be a strange fascination even among the urban middle classes for presenting their children with owls,” Ramesh said. Harry Potter publishers Bloomsbury declined to comment on 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-colored 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.