New Delhi: TRAFFIC and WWF-India has developed new identification (ID) tools to boost owl protection in the country. The owl identification tools are ID cards that allow law enforcement to precisely identify 16 regularly detected owl species in the illegal wildlife trade. The ID cards, which are available in English and Hindi, will be handed for free to wildlife law enforcement authorities throughout India.
Owls are frequently discovered in the illegal wildlife trade in India as a result of several superstitions and taboos associated with them. Despite owls’ enormous ecological function in our ecosystem, these endangered birds are trapped in great numbers for sacrifice and usage in a variety of rituals, which are frequently supported by local mystic practitioners.
The new identification (ID) tools were launched on March 3, 2022, on the occasion of the World Wildlife Day by Bharat Jyoti, Director-IGNFA; Dr AJT Johnsingh, Eminent Wildlife Scientist; Ravi Singh, SG & CEO, WWF-India; Nidhi Srivastava, Principal, CASFOS; and Dr Saket Badola, Head, TRAFFIC India at CASFoS (Central Academy for State Forest Service), Dehradun.
Authored by Dr Saket Badola, IFS, Head of TRAFFIC’s India office and Dr Merwyn Fernandes, Coordinator, TRAFFIC’s India office, the new ID tools provide essential information related to the species’ legal status, habitat, and distribution. They provide valuable tips on identifying the owls at the species level and highlight common threats.
On this occasion, Dr Saket Badola said, “The main strategies to recover key wildlife species is to provide them a safe habitat and protect them from the threats of poaching and illegal trade. Protecting owls will support ecosystem restoration and biodiversity. Therefore, echoing with this year’s theme of World Wildlife Day (WWD), “Recovering key species for ecosystem restoration”, we are releasing these ID cards that will help wildlife law enforcement officials in their endeavours to protect the wildlife of India.”
There are around 36 owl species in India, all of which are protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, making hunting, trade, or any other type of exploitation a serious offence. All owl species found in India are also protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which limits international trade.
Regardless of legal protection, owls are frequently found in the illegal wildlife trade. Since 2019, at least 20 seizures involving owl poaching and trafficking have been reported in India, with many more going unreported.
Ravi Singh, Secretary General & CEO, WWF-India, adds, “Owls play an essential ecological role in our ecosystem. They enhance agricultural productivity by keeping a check on the rodent populations. Unless trafficking and illicit trade of owls is controlled, the owl populations will remain under threat. Adequate conservation and protection efforts for owls and other endangered species is crucial for maintaining a healthy ecosystem”.
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