An expert associated with the Wildlife SOS in Agra told IANS that countless owls face a cruel fate at the hands of poachers who cater to ignorance and misguided beliefs.
India’s secret shame: Blind faith killing owls ahead of Diwali
Revered in Indian mythology and culture, the owls are reportedly used as sacrificial offerings by some people indulging in tantra and black magic.
The wealthy are said to sacrifice owls to appease Goddess Lakshmi.
Though it is difficult to estimate the number of owls that fall victim to superstitions ahead of Diwali, the general feeling among experts is that the number is high.
Geeta Seshamani, co-founder of Wildlife SOS, said: “Such blind faith has led to exploitation of this unique wildlife species, threatening their very existence in the wild.”
Hunting and trading of all Indian owl species are banned under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972.
But this does happen, says Kartick Satyanarayan, another co-founder of Wildlife SOS and head of its Anti-Poaching Unit, Forest Watch.
Weeks before Diwali, poachers hunt for owls and trap them for sale, earning handsome profits in the gray market.
The body parts of owls such as talons, skulls, bones, feathers, meat and even blood are reportedly used for talismans and as ingredients in traditional medicines.
A tantrik in Agra, Ram Mohan, said: “Once the owl is sacrificed, people feel that Lakshmi will remain in their homes as the bird is the carrier of the goddess.”