Harry Potter and Indonesia's owls

Two owls sitting on a branch © Daniel Mietchen CC BY 2.5

Jul 7, 2017

Are the Harry Potter books to blame for the suffering of thousands of owls on Indonesian bird markets? That is the conclusion reached by two researchers at Oxford Brookes University. Since the publication of the books, in which owls play a role as messengers and companions, the number of owls found on the markets has skyrocketed.

In the 1980s and 90s, before the release of the Harry Potter books, the researchers Vincent Nijman and Anna Nekaris found hardly any owls on the bird markets of Java and Bali. According to their study, around 12,000 scops owls and other large owls are now sold there every year.

Most of the owls are captured wild birds or chicks that were stolen from nests. “We expect the majority of them to die within weeks,” Nijman said.

The researchers note that while owls used to be called Burung hantu, or “ghost birds”, they are now called Burung Harry Potter, or “Harry Potter birds”. The rise of online communities of pet owl owners is a further factor in their popularity. 

J.K. Rowling has spoken out against keeping owls as pets: “If anybody has been influenced by my books to think an owl would be happiest shut in a small cage and kept in a house, I would like to say as forcefully as I can, you are wrong.”

While the trade in endangered birds is illegal, the markets operate with impunity. Please sign and share our petition to the Indonesian government calling on it to ban the trade in wild birds. Thank you!

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