People, Environment

Harry Potter Series Linked to Illegal Owl Trade

Harry Potter Series Linked to Illegal Owl Trade
Harry Potter Series Linked to Illegal Owl Trade

The Harry Potter books and movies seem to have fueled a dramatic rise in the number of owls being traded as pets in Indonesia, a new study concludes.

In the past, conservationists have suggested that the popularity of the fictional mail-delivering owls in the Harry Potter books may have caused an uptick in the illegal trade in owls in countries like India.

Now, scientists believe that the “Harry Potter effect” may have done the same in Indonesia, Mongabay reported.

“Birds have always been popular pets in Indonesia. But owls were rarely recorded in the country’s bird markets in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s,” Vincent Nijman and Anna Nekaris of Oxford Brookes University report in the study published in Global Ecology and Conservation. This trend appears to have changed in the late 2000s. Surveys of 20 bird markets in Java and Bali conducted between 2012 and 2016 revealed that owls are now widely traded. At least 12,000 Scops owls are being sold in Indonesia’s bird markets each year, the researchers estimated, in addition to a thousand other larger owls like the Australasian barn owl, the Oriental bay owl and the Buffy fish owl.

In the Harry Potter films, Ron Weasley’s pet owl, nicknamed Pigwidgeon, is depicted as a common scops owl.

While it is difficult to prove that the Harry Potter series has definitively caused the rise in owl trade in Indonesia, the researchers are convinced that there is a link. The Harry Potter books and movies were translated and released in Indonesia in the early 2000s. Around the same time, Internet access began to increase in the country, followed by a rise in social media use, the researchers say.

 “The increase in the number of owls offered for sale since 2010 not only in Jakarta but throughout Java and Bali, coincided with an increase in the number and level of organization of the pet owl communities, online and offline, and this, as much as the Harry Potter films and novels, might explain the popularity of owls as pets in Indonesia,” the authors write in the study.

The study adds that the owl trade in Indonesia is not only illegal, but also poorly regulated and possibly unsustainable.


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