NAINITAL: In the wake of Uttarakhand forest department sounding a red alert to protect owls from poaching ahead of Diwali, the Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) has now cancelled holidays of its field staff till November 15 and increased patrolling at the reserve, especially at night. “The poaching of owls is at its highest during Diwali and therefore, we have decided to increase patrolling across the reserve,” said Rahul, director, Corbett Tiger Reserve (who uses only his first name).
According to Hindu mythology, an owl is one of the vaahan (vehicle) of the goddess Lakshmi, and in certain occult practices, ritual sacrifice of owls is done to appease the goddess. The bird is also poached for black magic and traditional medicine.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has identified Uttarakhand as one of the growing hotbeds for illegal owl trade. While there is no credible data as to how many owls are hunted and neither has there been a census of the birds done, ornithologist Satish Pande, said that the number of owls being poached across the country would be upwards of 17,000 every year.
Several owl species are placed in the threatened or endangered list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Of the over 30 owl species found in India, one falls under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.