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Harry Potter to blame for India's owls disappearing?

(Peter Mountain/AP)

It's no magic trick. Harry Potter, the fictional boy wizard, is making owls disappear in India, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh says.

His comments came during a presentation of a new report by a conservation group, Traffic, which offered a new study blaming a black market for trading in the highly endangered owl species in India.

The report says the owls are often being trapped for black-magic rituals. "Shaman or black magic practitioners frequently referred to as tantriks in India, prescribe the use of owls and their body parts such as skull, feathers, ear tuffs, claws, heart, liver, kidney, blood, eyes, fat, beak, tears, eggshells, meat and bones for ceremonial pujas and rituals."

Ramesh had a less-sinister reason for the declining numbers: blame parents trying to please their children.

"Following Harry Potter, there seems to be a strange fascination even among the urban middle classes for presenting their children with owls," Ramesh said, according to the BBC.

Ramesh's reasoning is not as strange as it may sound. Animal rescue groups say that after popular movies featuring animals are released in theaters, a subsequent surge in demand for those animals is seen in real life. The sad part is, a few months later a second surge is seen: Those animals are often abandoned after the families realize a live animal is a lot more difficult to pick up after than an adorable movie version.

A few months after "Men in Black" was released, for example, groups reported a surge in abandoned pugs, thanks to the talking sidekick in the movie.

For Harry Potter, his sidekick is a white owl named Hedwig. The author of the Traffic report began his research into the owl trade after he was asked by a friend to find a white owl for his 10-year-old son's birthday.

By Melissa Bell  | November 3, 2010; 3:26 PM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
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