Great Horned Owls Killings: Loosing Biodiversity

IAS Prelims 2023

As per the latest reports, the trading and killing of Great Horned Owls is rampant in Karnataka. There is illegal trading of live owls  in and around the rural environs of the Bangalore city.

Hunting of birds and animals especially Indian Rock Eagle-owls, Brahminy Kites, Slender Loris and Red Sand Boa is rampant during Amavasya (New Moon) and Purnima (Full Moon) as people sacrifice many wildlife species based on superstitions and unfounded beliefs.

Highly prized in domestic and international markets, the Rock Eagle-owl or the Great Horned Owl is very difficult to capture. But when they are caught, they are killed for their body parts, with their feathers removed and their legs cut off.

In Bengaluru, the Great Horned Owl and the Mottled Wood Owl are often spotted at Lalbagh and Cubbon Park. The former have been seen in rocky landscapes and very old trees in a range of 35-50 km around Yelahanka, Nelamangala, Kanakapura, Doddaballapur, Magadi and Ramanagara.

According to wildlife activists, the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, protects all owl species in India and makes capturing and trading them illegal. The state forest department in coordination with TRAFFIC India and animal protection organisations like Humane Society International (HSI), India, has been cracking down on this activity whenever specific information has been received.

Four people have been arrested and booked for hunting and trading under WPA section 26.

Restricted to Indian sub-continent, Rock Eagle owl is a species of Great Horned Owl and is one of the largest owls in India. Having feathered legs and feet, it inhabites hills and scrub forests. It is known for its horns which are like ‘tufts’ on its heads.

The Indian eagle-owl, also called the rock eagle-owl or Bengal eagle-owl (Bubo bengalensis), is a species of large horned owl restricted to the Indian Subcontinent. They were earlier treated as a subspecies of the Eurasian eagle-owl.

They are found in hilly and rocky scrub forests, and are usually seen in pairs. They have a deep resonant booming call that may be heard at dawn and dusk. They are typically large owls, and have “tufts” on their heads. They are splashed with brown and grey, and have a white throat patch with black small stripes.

Forest Owlet is listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. – All other owl species of India are listed in Schedule IV of the Act, under the family names Tytonidae and Strigidae. The Act prohibits hunting and domestic trade in these species.

The international trade in owls is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Forest Owlet is placed in Appendix I, which prohibits commercial international trade while all other owl species found in India are listed in Appendix II, thus restricting their international commercial trade.