Jairam Ramesh gives a call for public awareness on owls in country

New Delhi, Nov.2 (ANI): Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh has given a call to launch a massive public awareness campaign to protect and save birds.

Releasing TRAFFIC India's report entitled "Imperilled Custodians of the Night", a study on Illegal trade, trapping and use of owl in India here, the Minister on Tuesday said that owl is highly endangered species now.

He said that maximum killings of owls take place during Diwali in the name of black magic and sorcery driven by superstition, totems and taboos.

The Minister informed India is natural habitat for about 30 species. There is a great threat to many bird species. Large number of communities in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh are involved in illegal trade of owls which is used for Tantric practices

Ramesh said this report would sensitize masses on an important issue.

On this occasion, Ramesh also said that his ministry would closely examine the recommendations made in the report to take strict actions under Wildlife Protection Act.

Hunting of and trade in all Indian owl species is banned under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 of India. While the exact number of owls traded each year countrywide is unknown, it certainly runs into thousands of individuals and there are anecdotal reports of owls becoming rare throughout India due to loss of suitable habitat especially old growth forests Owls play beneficial and vital role in the ecosystem, particularly to farmers through their predation of rodents and other crop pests.

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.

Of the 30 owl species recorded from India, 15 have been recorded by this study in the domestic live bird trade. Owl species most highly sought after by traders are large species, especially those with false "ear-tufts" which are thought to bestow greater magical properties on the birds.

The TRAFFIC investigation has found that besides black magic, owls are trapped and traded for use in street performances; killed for taxidermy and for their meat; their parts are used in folk medicines; even their claws and feathers are sometimes used in headgear. Live owls are also used as decoys to catch other bird species.

TRAFFIC's investigations recorded 15 owl species in trade including Spotted Owlet, Barn Owl, Rock-Eagle Owl, Jungle Owlet, Collared Scops-owl, Brown Fish-owl, Dusky Eagle-owl, Mottled Wood-owl, Asian Barred Owlet, Collared Owlet, Brown Wood-owl, Oriental Scops-owl, Spot-bellied Eagle-owl, Tawny Fish-owl and the Eastern Grass-owl.

The investigations into the owl trade were conducted during nationwide studies of the bird trade undertaken between1992-2000 with additional information gathered between 2001 and 2008.

The prime investigator and author of the report is ornithologist Mr Abrar Ahmed.

TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network is a joint programme of WWF, the global conservation organization and IUCN, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. (ANI)

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