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To whit, to whoo

With Pottermania ending, pet owls have been junked. It could have been worse, it could have been tarantulas.

india Updated: May 24, 2012 01:16 IST

At the height of Pottermania - the term used to refer to the maniacal popularity of fictional boy wizard Harry Potter - it was not unusual to find scores of young boys and girls dressed up in wizards' and witches' cloaks, waiting in front of bookstores (and later movie halls) for the latest installment of his adventure. Imitation is but the next logical step to adoration, and catering to the whims and fancies of these devotees with their adorable magic wands made good commercial sense. So King's Cross station in London actually came up with a 9¾ platform for Potter tourists, while owls (Potter has his Hedwig) became a pet worth craving for.

Except that while platforms once built can prosper or languish without much ado, the same is not true of owls. Experts say that owls need at least a 20-feet aviary to thrive, apart from the usual cleaning up of droppings and feathers. So once Potter became a phenomenon of the past, and the little boys and girls who adored him stopped being so little anymore (it has now been 15 years since the first novel was published), the owls bore the brunt of the inevitable passage of time, abandoned or left to starve, with several finding their way to sanctuaries across Britain, their numbers rising to hundreds from what they were previously.

Since we are unlikely to be sanctimonious in this space about the responsibilities involved in keeping a pet, we can only be thankful that JK Rowling's hero had chosen an owl and not some of the more exotic choices made by heroes of the material world. Had Potter chosen to have a chimpanzee (like Michael Jackson once did) or shown a fondness for hermit crabs, lizards or tarantulas, then the damage arising out of abandoning them may have been difficult to contain. While we do feel sorry for the owls that have been left to fend for themselves, we are glad that at least the streets of London are safe from more difficult animals on the prowl.