Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has blamed fans of Harry Potter for contributing to the decline of wild owls in the country as children seek to emulate the boy wizard by taking the birds as pets.

The books and films, which are popular in India, feature a snowy owl called Hedwig, who is used to deliver mail.

“Following Harry Potter, there seems to be a strange fascination even among the urban middle classes for presenting their children with owls,” Mr. Ramesh said on Wednesday, according to comments reported by the British Broadcasting Corporation. His remarks came as wildlife group ‘Traffic' presented a report called “Imperilled Custodians of the Night” which warned about the declining owl population in India.

‘Traffic' called for tougher measures to protect the bird ahead of Diwali. It said owls were sometimes sacrificed on auspicious occasions. — AFP