Agra, October 29, 2016: As Diwali approaches; people all over India gather to celebrate the occasion following the rituals with reverence. Among such rituals, there is also a myth of sacrificing owl during Lakshmi Puja which will supposedly force the goddess to stay with the family. In UP, bird markets see a brutal trade in owls during this festive season.
According to TOI, wildlife activists say, “A lot of the trade in the country is routed through Agra.”
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In the city, the owls can even be delivered at home. Sometimes, the trader sacrifices it for believers if they are not comfortable to do it on their own. Diwali’s new moon night is considered the most auspicious time for owl sacrifices.
According to wildlife activists, “Agra is one of the major hubs for this trade. Places like Korai-Karavili village, near Fatehpuri Sikri, and Kosi Kalan in Mathura are infamous for it.”
The principal investigator for the report, Ornithologist Abrar Ahmed, told TOI, “Korai-Karavili village in Agra was the worst place in India in terms of owl trade”.
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He further added, “There are many tribal settlements in the area including those of Kalandhars (bear handlers), who have been rehabilitated. However, people there are involved in trade in owls, considering it a more benign crime compared to trade in other animals. After our report was published, steps were taken to curb the trade, but things are back to square one.”
“Owls are sold at a premium, brought in only after a specific demand is made, generally for black magic, or during the Diwali season for sacrifice. They are often delivered right to the buyer’s doorstep. Therefore such trade remains undocumented since most of the birds are then sacrificed,” Ahmed said.
Apart from the sacrifices, due to religious superstitions and myths these birds are sought for their different body parts such as feathers, meat, blood, talons, bones, and, skulls which are used in black magic and traditional medicines.
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According to TOI, “The Indian (rock) eagle owl, brown fish owl, dusky eagle owl, Indian scops owl and mottled wood owl are five of the most traded owl species in the illegal wildlife market. Horned owls such as the Indian eagle owl are particularly sought after by tantriks, as their false feather ear tufts (feather extensions on the head) are considered to have mystical properties.”
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