Beware owl hunters. Now the laws to deal with the capture of owls or any other form of hunting activity get more teeth in Jammu and Kashmir. These would now invite serious legal penalties, including jail and fines.
According to the J&K Department of Wildlife Protection, the notification to this effect was published after reports of a number of owl thefts from many places over the last couple of months.
The Wildlife Department issued an advisory warning after some images of the owl species, particularly, the Barn Owl and the Barn Owl, surfaced on social media. Catching, running, trapping, driving, or baiting any wild animal, including birds, falls under the definition of “hunting,” which is a punishable offence against wildlife under the Section 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.
The agency cautioned that anybody, who committed such an offence would face “a term of imprisonment for a term that may extend to 3 years or with a fine that may extend to Rs 20,000 or both.”
The notification advises anybody, who comes across a wild bird that has unintentionally been hurt or seems to be in danger not to try to handle or save the bird on their own but to call the Wildlife Department. This is a violation of the Wildlife Protection Act to capture these birds.
Why are owls caught by humans?
There is a superstition in Kashmir that preserving an owl’s claws wards against the evil elements. The owl population has drastically decreased since people trap them, cut their nails, and finally kill them. This was what the locals and Forest Department officials say.
Owls are crucial in the management of the rodent population. They support the maintenance of the food chain and are excellent at eliminating pests. Additionally, owls eliminate diseased rodents and halt the spread of zoonotic ailments.
They are, therefore, having a difficult time surviving in the wild. However, it is still possible to ensure the survival of these rare owl species. To make it happen, one must first understand the true nature of the issues so that we can contribute to the solution rather than perpetuate it, said a Forest Department official.
The owls may be saved by the conservation of the vital habitat and raising public awareness of owls’ ecological importance. According to him, increasing public knowledge of superstition would assist enforce strong legal sanctions against trade and poaching. Due to growing urbanisation, these birds have nowhere to have a nest to live in and reproduce. Both their habitat and breeding locations need to be preserved.