Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has blamed fans of Harry Potter for the demise of wild owls in the country as children seek to emulate the boy wizard by taking the birds as pets.
The hit books and films, which are popular in India, feature a snowy owl called Hedwig who is a feathered sidekick for the Potter character and 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," Ramesh said Wednesday, according to comments reported by the BBC.
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.
Researchers found that a growing number of owls were being trapped, traded or killed in black magic rituals.
Traffic called for tougher measures to protect the bird ahead of Diwali, one of the biggest Hindu festivals, which starts on Friday. It said owls were sometimes sacrificed on auspicious occasions.