The popular fantasy series has inspired families to keep the birds as pets, say animal-rights groups

By Stephen M. Silverman
November 03, 2010 01:50 PM
Warner Bros. (2)

It appears someone really does give a hoot. India has a strange new problem, and Harry Potter – and his snowy white owl sidekick, Hedwig – may be partly to blame.

“Following Harry Potter, there seems to be a strange fascination even among the urban middle classes for presenting their children with owls,” India’s Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told the BBC, while calling for protective measures for the species.

Ramesh’s observation about owls as household pets was made simultaneous to a report from the wildlife group Traffic that warned of the subcontinent’s dwindling owl population.

To make matters worse, owls and their body parts are said be used in black magic rituals.

As evidence of the demand for owls as domestic creatures, another animal-rescue group, Wildlife SOS, told the Sify news service in India that it is receiving several calls from people asking if owls can be kept as pets.

Responds Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS, “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.”

As a result, says Abrar Ahmed, a wildlife expert, “The illegal trade in owls runs undercover and there is a strong network.”