"Following Harry Potter, there seems to be a strange fascination even among the urban middle classes for presenting their children with owls," says Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, who also stated there is an increase in people looking to purchase owls from illegal traders.
These birds are being trapped, traded, and also killed in "magic" rituals. A conservation group called Traffic reports that thousands of owls are sacrificed for "auspicious" occasions, and today marks Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.
Addressing the issue, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling wrote on her Web site, "There has been a spate of stories in the press recently concerning the upswing in popularity of keeping owls as pets, allegedly as a result of the Harry Potter books. If it is true that anybody has been influenced by my books to think that an owl would be happiest shut in a small cage and kept in a house, I would like to take this opportunity to say as forcefully as I can: please don't."
J.K. also notes the superstitions associated with owls around the world -- not just in India. "To the Greeks, the owl was emblematic of Athena, goddess of wisdom and war, and if an owl was sighted flying over the Greek army prior to battle it was considered an omen of victory. To the Romans, on the other hand, the owl was an unlucky creature that predicted death and disaster. In Britain there is a superstition that it is unlucky to see an owl by daylight, a superstition I had fun with in the first chapter of 'Philosopher's Stone' where, of course, the sudden explosion of owls flying by daylight represented something very lucky indeed, though the Muggles did not know it."
Do you think there should be stronger laws protecting the owl population in India? Is Harry Potter really to blame? Go here to see videos from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.