Written by Sameer Manekar
The Indian Owl Festival, the country’s first owl fest, will be held at Pingori village in Purandar taluka of Pune from November 29. The two-day festival, organised by Ela Foundation, an NGO working towards nature education and conservation, will give information on owl conservation and feature art forms like pictures, paintings, lanterns, lamp shades, posters, origami, stitched articles, poems and stories on owls.
“It is a first-of-its-kind festival in the country that is being organised with the intention of creating awareness about owl as a bird and debunking numerous superstitions associated with it,” said Dr Satish Pande, director of Ela Foundation and a professor of ornithology at Savitribai Phule Pune University. “We will be conducting exhibitions of art works sent to us by around 1,200 students, exhibition of owl photos from some of the leading owl photographers, sculptures, and rangolis — all free of cost.” Skits will be performed and short films on owls will also be screened, Dr Pande added.
Talking about the importance of owls in the ecosystem and endangerment, Pande said: “Of the 262 species of owls that are found in the world, 75 feature in the red data book — meaning they are threatened. Major causes behind this are superstitions and habitat loss — both are man-made. Despite lots of research being done on owls worldwide, conservation was not happening. We realised that unless we explained our research to the common man, nothing was going to happen. Owls eat rats, rodents, bandicoots, and mice. Most of the species that owls consume are harmful to agricultural croplands. So these birds are actually very beneficial to farmers.”
According to a report published by Traffic India, a wildlife trade monitoring body, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 2010, owls were found to be “consumed and traded for a wide variety of purposes, including black magic, street performances, taxidermy, private aviaries/zoos, food and in folk medicines”.
Despite being protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, the report has found owls to be “highly prized and in demand for black magic purposes”.