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Diwali is a dark time for owls in India: Here's Why


New Delhi, Nov 7: While we celebrate the festival of lights with much joy and fervour, wildlife experts have said that many owls are sent to gallows by those engaged in black magic. While the exact number of owls traded domestically is unknown, estimates place the figure in thousands throughout the country.

It is believed that sacrificing an owl will bring in wealth and prosperity during Deepavali.


While the illicit trade of these protected bird species goes on throughout the year, it is during Diwali that the business is at its peak. This is mostly because ignorant people, fueled by misguided beliefs and superstitions carry out the age-old practice of sacrificing owls during this time.

Driven by religious myths and superstitious beliefs tied to them, these birds are sought for their body parts such as talons, skulls, bones, feathers, meat and blood, which are then used in talismans, black magic and traditional medicine, apart from the sacrifices.

TRAFFIC issues advisory

TRAFFIC issues advisory

"Use of owls in black magic and sorcery linked with superstition, totems, and taboos drives the illegal trade of owls in India. Shaman or black magic practitioners, frequently referred to as tantrics in India, prescribe the use of parts from live owls such as skull, feathers, ear tuffs, claws, heart, liver, kidney, blood, eyes, fat, beak, tears, eggshells, meat, and bones for ceremonial pujas and rituals," says advisory issued by TRAFFIC.

The network did a study on the illegal trade of the nocturnal bird few years ago, titled ‘Imperilled Custodians of the Night', said that of the 30 species of owls found in India, 15 have been found in illegal wildlife trade. The researchers found that occcult practitioners tell people that owl parts are significant in getting desired results on fronts like curing illnesses and fighting effects of evil spirits.

"These birds are poached for their bones, talons, skulls, feathers, meat and blood, which are then used in talismans, black magic and traditional medicine. Owls, especially those with ears, are thought to possess the greatest magical powers with Diwali claimed to be the most auspicious time for owl sacrifices," says the report.

Why owls?

Why owls?

The owl which is a revered bird in Hinduism is popularly known as Ullu. Ullu is the most favorite bird of Goddess Lakshmi. Being related to Goddess of wealth and prosperity, Ullu is considered the appropriate medium to appease Goddess Lakshmi. Hence during the night of Diwali, various remedies related to Ullu are performed to achieve wealth, prosperity and happiness.

Even many businesses use owl in their logo and insignia to achieve success in their business. It is not just coincidence that many businesses have achieved tremendous success after following owl remedies. The famous Indian publisher Pustak Mahal uses owl in its logo.

15 species of owl under illegal wildlife trade

15 species of owl under illegal wildlife trade

Of the 30 species of owls found in India, 15 have been found in illegal wildlife trade with Spotted Owlet Athene brama, Barn Owl Tyto alba and Rock Eagle-owl Bubo bengalensis found to be the most commonly recorded species in trade.

Owls in India are protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of India that prohibits hunting, trade or any other form of utitlisation of the species or their body parts. Their international trade is further restricted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Owls play a vital role in ecosystems, not least through benefitting farmers by preying on small rodents and other crop pests, making their ongoing protection of high ecological, economic, and social importance.

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