The innocent birds are poached for their body parts such as talons, skulls, bones, feathers, meat, and blood, which are then used in the talisman, black magic, and occult practices.
Endangered Bird Rescue: The Wildlife SOS-GSPCA team, along with the Gujarat Forest Department and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), Mumbai seized two Bengal eagle owls from Avdha Village, situated in the Valsad district of Gujarat. Rescued a few days before Diwali, the owls were suspected to be sold and used in ritualistic sacrifice for traditional practices related to the festival. Wildlife SOS, operating in collaboration with the Gujarat Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (GSPCA), assisted the forest department and WCCB Mumbai in successfully seizing two Bengal eagle owls (also known as the rock-eagle owl). After receiving intel on the poached owls being present in Avdha Village, the joint team conducted a raid and swiftly intercepted the culprit.
The culprit was nabbed from a car and the owls were found in an extremely distressing situation, where they were bound and kept inside a wooden crate. After investigating the perpetrator further, five more individuals were nabbed, taking the total number of arrests to six.
Hiren Kumar Patel, Range Forest Officer, Dharampur said, “We were following the case for over a week, and after receiving a reliable lead, we took the assistance of Wildlife SOS-GSPCA and WCCB to intercept and seize the owls. The owls were kept under medical observation for three days, and only after following all legal protocols, once the veterinary team deemed them to be fit, the birds were released back to their natural habitat.”
Raj Bhavsar, Project Coordinator at Wildlife SOS and President of GSPCA said, “The festival of lights is not so auspicious for owls, as many birds fall victim to human exploitation, driven by religious myths and superstitious beliefs. The innocent birds are poached for their body parts such as talons, skulls, bones, feathers, meat, and blood, which are then used in the talisman, black magic, and occult practices.”
Horned owls such as the Bengal eagle-owl are most sought after as they are coveted for their false feather ear tufts (feather extensions on the head) which are wrongly believed to have mystical properties.
Kartick Satyanarayan, Co-founder of Wildlife SOS and head of the anti-poaching unit Forest Watch said, “Bird markets in Chandni Chowk and Jama Masjid are among the many places within New Delhi that cater to the huge demand for these protected and rare owl species during this festive season. Had we not intervened, these two owls may have lost their lives to a ritualistic sacrifice based on superstition.”