Examinations of 20 bird markets in Java and Bali between 2012 and 2016 have revealed that the illegal trading of owls are now a widespread problem, and over 12,000 Scops owls are being sold in Indonesian markets every year. On top of this, over a thousand other larger breeds of owl are being traded, such as the Australasian bird owl, the Oriental bay owl and the Buffy fish owl.
The significance of the Scops owl in particular is that it is the same breed as Ron Weasley’s pet owl in the Harry Potter films.
Furthermore, studies show that the majority of these birds are caught from the wild, making their trade hugely illegal.
It is very difficult to make statements about the connection between the trading of these owls and the Harry Potter books, as there is no substantial evidence for the link. However, researches are convinced that it is the case; the Harry Potter books and films were released in translation in Indonesia in the early 2000s. Moreover, around this time, social media hugely increased in usage, and there are now a number of online and offline pet owl communities in Java and Bali. This offers another reason for the increase in trade, alongside the release of the Harry Potter franchise in Indonesia.
Furthermore, the owl trade in Indonesia is illegal yet very poorly regulated, which has catalysed its expansion over the years. The owls, nocturnal creatures, are brought out in broad daylight to be sold at markets and are therefore hugely distressed under the hot sun. Furthermore, they are often fed nothing but water and rice, instead of their natural diet of insects and small mammals.
Additionally, over half of the owls seen at these trade markets were downy chicks, who had obviously been taken from their nests. It is unlikely that these chicks will live longer than a few weeks, rendering the trade not only ghastly and hugely illegal, but unsustainable.