The wildlife trade monitoring network, TRAFFIC India has issued an advisory to wildlife enforcement agencies calling for increased efforts to help curb trafficking and sacrifice of owls during Diwali like festival seasons nights.
- Owls are illegally trapped and sacrificed for tantric rituals and ceremonies during the festive season.
- The advisory follows TRAFFIC’s investigations into illegal owl trade in India, published in the report ‘Imperilled Custodians of the Night’.
- As per the TRAFFIC sacrifice of owls begins with the onset of Dussehra and continues till Diwali, poachers involved in bird trade are most active during this season. This is one of the most important times for enforcement agencies to remain alert and increase vigilance.
- The report stated that owls are used and traded for a wide variety of purposes, including black magic, street performances, taxidermy, private aviaries/ zoos, food, folk medicines and capturing other birds.
- Owls, especially those with “ears” (tufts), are thought to possess the “greatest magical powers” and Diwali is claimed to be the most auspicious time for sacrificing an owl.
- Of 30 species of owls found in India, 15 are traded illegally. The spotted owlet (Athene brama), barn owl (Tyto alba) and rock eagle-owl (Bubo bengalensis) are the most commonly recorded species in the illegal trade.
- Owls are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, which prohibits hunting, trade or any other form of utilisation of the species or their body parts. Their international trade is restricted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
- TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, is a leading non-governmental organisation working globally on trade in wild animals and plants in the context of both biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. Its global office is situated in Cambridge.