Ramesh Pokhrel | Khotang: With a view to dispelling myths and fallacies about owls and to encourage children to be a part of the conservation process, Nepal is all set to host a two-day international festival dedicated to the conservation of owls.
The unique conservation event will be organized under the joint auspices ‘Friends of Nature’ and ‘Diktle Rupakot Majuwagadhi’ Municipality on February 1 & 2. The festival dedicated to conservation of owls is organized in India, Italy and USA. It may be mentioned here that India has recently hosted its first such festival in Pune.
Owls are highly neglected fauna in terms of research and conservation as majority of efforts concentrate on animals including rhinoceros and tiger. This leaves owls exposed and unprotected. Eight species are known to be threatened due to illegal hunting and trade in Nepal.
Owls are hunted and traded locally as well as internationally. People consider it to have mystic medicinal value that been detrimental to their survival. Also, cultural beliefs (the power to chase evil) and lack of knowledge on their importance (controlling rodent population) are damaging their numbers, let alone growth. One major cause of this is due to lack of awareness in local communities.
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To fix this lack of awareness, the idea of Nepal Owl Festival was planned back in 2012. Nepal Owl Festival sensitizes people on conservation issues being faced by the owl species in the country including their hunting and trade. Fusion of culture, conservation and entertainment, the festival also helps to promote local culture and games disappearing rapidly across the country. This also boosts the potential of tourism in the area.
Of the 262 species of owls reported in the world, 75 feature in the red data book. They are threatened. Major causes behind this are superstitions and habitat loss — both of which are manmade. Lots of research being done on owls worldwide notwithstanding, conservation is yet to reach living rooms.
Unless people are explained the findings of such research and their implications on the life of the common man, nothing is going to change. Owls prey on rats, rodents, bandicoots, and mice. Most of the species that owls consume are harmful to agricultural croplands. They are actually very beneficial to farmers.
Owls were found to be “consumed and traded for a wide variety of purposes including black magic, street performances, taxidermy, private aviaries, private zoos, food and in folk medicines, if a 2010 joint report of wildlife trade monitoring body, Traffic India and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is to be believed. Despite being protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, the researchers found owls to be “highly prized and in demand for black magic purposes”.
NEPAL IN THE CONTEXT
Nepal is home to 23 owl species, of which one is a vagrant and another has not been seen since last 180 years. They are hunted and traded heavily in Nepal as well as abroad making them one among top ten traded species in Nepal. Nepal is
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The specific objectives are to: discourage the hunting and trade of owls by elevating conservation awareness of local people, media and political leaders; sensitize the locals on owl conservation; recognize the hidden national and global conservation heroes; promote traditional culture and games encouraging ecotourism in the area; foster collaborations among wildlife researchers and conservationists by providing platform to share research results and encourage and mentor young graduates for owl conservation.