Ramesh wants campaign to protect owls

Jairam Ramesh said a massive public awareness campaign should be launched to protect owls.

New Delhi: Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh today said a massive public awareness campaign should be launched to protect owls which are on the verge of extinction
because of their illegal trade for black magic and sorcery driven by superstition.

"Maximum killings of owls take place during Diwali in the name of black magic. We need to protect them as they are highly endangered species now," Ramesh said after releasing a report on illegal trade of owls, "Imperilled Custodians of the
Night" here.

Prepared by an NGO, Traffic India, the report says while the exact number of owls traded each year countrywide is unknown, it certainly runs into thousands and there are
anecdotal reports of owls becoming rare throughout India due to loss of suitable habitat especially old growth forests.

The country is natural habitat for about 30 species of owls. Illegal trade of owls which are used for tantric practices is highly prevalent in some areas of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, as per the report which has give various suggestions for the protection of the bird.

Ramesh 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.

Samir Sinha, head of Traffic India, said loss of suitable habitat especially old growth forests is also taking toll on the birds which play beneficial and vital role in the
ecosystem, particularly to farmers through their predation of rodents and other crop pests.

The investigation by the NGO has found that besides black magic, owls are trapped and traded for use in street performances, killed for taxidermy and for their meat while their parts are used in folk medicines.

The investigations into the owl trade were conducted during nationwide studies of the bird trade undertaken between 1992-2000 with additional information gathered between 2001 and 2008, Sinha added.



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