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17,000 owls killed in India in 2018 for black magic: World Owl Conference begins at SPPU on Nov 29

By Prachi Bari
PUBLISHED ON NOV 28, 2019 06:26 PM IST

PUNE Pune based non-profit Ela Habitat, in association with Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) and Maharashtra forest department, have organised the sixth World Owl Conference at the university campus from Friday, November 29, to Monday, December 2.

The conference will coincide with owl festival happening at Pingori near Jejuri in Pune district, between December 3 and 4.

The owl conference is the first of its kind to be held in India to spread awareness and promote research on the nocturnal bird, according to Dr Satish Pande, director of Ela Foundation and organising secretary, WOC-India.

“We are an agri-based country and most of the owls found in rural India are regarded as a farmer’s best friends. Owls take care of crop pests like rodents, snakes and insects. Sadly, owls are also looked upon as taboo or inauspicious according to some myths and superstitious beliefs and are often sacrificed for medicinal purposes or poached by hunters,” said Dr Pande, who claims that 17,000 owls have been killed in 2018 in India, under the guise of black magic.

According to organisers, the conference will cover research and scientific papers on owls from 16 countries; a total of 46 papers, each talking about conservation, and preservation of this avian order of nocturnal bird, or strigiformes, as the species is known, who are predators.

James Duncan, director, Discover Owls, author and also co-organiser of the World Owl conference said some owls are endangered and at the risk of being extinct.

“Especially the barn owl and burrowing owl. These habitats are getting destroyed and overall owl population has been on the decline in the past decade, caused by hunting, lack of prey and viral diseases,” said Duncan.

Pande said the one of the purpose of the conference is to understand owls in scientific light and spread the message that owls are friends of human beings.

At the conference, there will be an exhibition of photographs of owls of India, posters and stalls about owl paraphernalia and video sessions at the WOC.

“We have researchers like James Duncan (Canada), the author of ‘Owls of the World’; Alexadre Roulin (Switzerland); Prof Reuven Yosef (Israel); Ingrid Kohl (Austria); Jonathan Haw (South Africa) to share their research findings,” said Kalpana Pai, Head of Department, Zoology, SPPU.

At the second Indian Owl Festival at Pingori, 1,000 owl paintings and sculptures will also be on display.

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