The superstitions regarding Owls in India are great and never ending. Owls have always been associated with demon rituals, spooky tales and folklore in India. At the same time, ironically, the Owl is also the bahan or carrier of Goddess Lakshmi who is worshipped during Diwali, the festival of lights, for wealth and prosperity, and hence must be revered.
The larger owls like Eagle owls, Short Eared owls etc. are majorly used for the purpose of ”black magic” by Taantriks and easily caught from abandoned store houses, urban jungles etc. by bird catchers, who form a syndicate with these Tantriks to supply the owls. These Tantriks seem to get more active during festival times like Diwali etc cashing in on people’s blind beliefs in regards to Owls and other such animals. This renders these already endangered owls to the brink of extinction.
Every year, the rescue helpline of Wildlife SOS receives numerous calls about illegal activities of these Tantriks so it came as no surprise when Wildlife SOS received a call for Owl rescue on Diwali eve. The call came from Faridabad, in the nearby state of Haryana, where some people had noticed a Tantrik carrying what looked like a large owl. Immediately the call was passed on to PFA Faridabad who rescued the bewildered Owl and brought the bird to Wildlife SOS for treatment and care.
Wildlife SOS identified the bird as an Indian Eagle Owl (Bubo bengalensis). Only recently separated as a sub-species from the Eurasian eagle owl (Bubo bubo), it inhabits wooded areas with rocky outcrops almost in the whole Indian subcontinent. Being a larger solitary owl, it is easily located, trapped and sold to Tantriks and likes. On closer inspection, it was noted that the apical feathers were broken, in a method to ensure that the bird doesn’t fly. The bird was quickly rehydrated, and a topical ointment applied and was taken to the transit shelter.
“Such owls have always been rarer to find, and their numbers are dropping even more thanks to such unscrupulous activities. Any person involved in trapping, catching or harming such birds are liable for criminal actions based on the Wildlife Protection Act 1972” said Kartick Satyanarayan, Co-founder of Wildlife SOS.
“The bird is healthy now and feeding properly. We hope it can be rehabilitated soon” added Abhishek Narayanan, Helpline Coordinator of Wildlife SOS.
Wildlife SOS, Rescue and Rehabilitation Shelter is home for many such abandoned birds and animals and they constantly need help.