New Delhi: Fascinated by Harry Potter's lead protagonist's pet owl Hedwig, urban India has taken a fancy for the nocturnal bird and wants to pet it, wildlife experts said on Wednesday.
According to Abrar Ahmed, a wildlife expert, a few months back he got a phone call from one of his friends asking for an owl for a theme party.
'My friend said that she wanted an owl as the party theme is Harry Potter,' said Ahmed.
Ahmed, who has done a study on owls' habitat, said there are no exact figures of how many owls are kept as pets in houses but the numbers have been increasing.
'The illegal trade in owls runs undercover and there is a strong network,' he said.
Cconcern for owls was also raised by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday when he released Traffic India's report titled 'Imperilled Custodians of the Night'.
'There has been a strange fascination among affluent class to present their children owls, probably inspired by Harry Potter books and movies where the protagonist Harry has a pet owl,' said Ramesh.
Wildlife SOS, an animal rescue organisation, said they receive several calls from people asking if owls can be kept as pets.
'Owls are commonly poached for black magic. But, yes, people have become curious after reading Harry Potter books, where mystical energy of owls has been shown,' said Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS.
While the exact number of owls traded every year is unknown, the figure certainly runs into thousands and there are anecdotal reports of owls becoming rare species due to loss of suitable habitat, especially old growth forests.
According to the report, black magic practitioners prescribe the use of owls and their body parts such as skull, feathers, claws, heart, liver, kidney, blood, eyes, beak, eggshells, meat and bones for ceremonial rituals.