Harry Potter Causes Conservation Crisis
Yes you did read that right! The problem isn’t young Harry himself but rather his snowy owl Hedwig. The bird’s fame has led to many of the wizard’s fans wanting their own owl and that has caused a surge in the illegal trade of the birds. The issue is now serious and could lead to disaster if something isn’t done to stop the birds being trapped in the wild.
Owls in Indonesia
Experts who have surveyed 20 bird markets on the Indonesian islands of Bali and Java have reported that while only a few hundred owls were for sale back in 2000 (the year before the first film came out), approximately 13,000 birds were sold last year.
The bird-keepers of the Far East have previously avoided owls and so there wasn’t much demand for the birds but now they have become so popular in the wake of the films that they are big business. Fans are using online forums to pass on information about where to obtain the owls. Concerned conservationists are calling for the birds to be added to Indonesia’s protected species list. Hopefully that will happen soon.
Caring for Owls
Ordinary people do not know how to care for the birds and lack suitable facilities. The birds have been taken from the wild and have little chance of a happy life or even survival. In markets where you might have seen only a single specimen in the past, there are now regularly dozens of owls for sale. Many of the unfortunate birds are purchased for use in black magic rituals.
The Avian Stars of the Harry Potter Films
In the Harry Potter stories, it wasn’t just Harry who had an owl. The Weasley family owned a post owl called Errol who was an ancient great grey. Ron Weasley’s older brother, Percy, kept a screech-owl and Harry’s nemesis, Draco Malfoy, had a large Eurasian eagle-owl. JK Rowling has personally urged fans not to copy their heroes and keep owls at home.
‘If anybody has been influenced by my books to think an owl would be happiest shut in a small cage and kept in a house, I would like to take this opportunity to say as forcefully as I can, "You are wrong."
She has suggested that fans would be best to sponsor an owl at a bird sanctuary. They would then be able to visit the bird but know that it was being kept in suitable circumstances and could lead a happy life.
An Unexpected Issue
With the benefit of hindsight, it seems obvious that keeping owls as pets would experience a surge in popularity following the success of the films. But there are some things that you just don’t see coming and this issue is certainly one of them.