Harry Potter has made owls so popular that bird smuggling is on the rise, threatening the survival of the unusual creatures in India. "Following Harry Potter, there seems to be a strange fascination even among the urban middle classes for presenting their children with owls," said India's Environmental Minister Jairam Ramesh. The author of a new report on the threats facing India's wild owls revealed that a friend recently requested a white owl from him to give her son on his tenth birthday. "This was probably one of the strangest demands made to me as an ornithologist," he told the BBC.
Wild owls are also trapped, traded, and killed for black magic rituals, and will likely be sacrificed as part of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, which begins Friday. "Diwali should be a time for celebration across our nation, not one when our wildlife is plundered to feed ignorant superstition," said Ramesh. Half of India's 30 species of owls are caught and sold alive in markets, according to the latest report.