Bhitarkanika Nat Park officials rescue endangered barn owl

Kendrapara: Bhitarkanika National Park officials have rescued an endangered barn owl, a scheduled animal under the Wildlife Act, from a place of worship at a village in Kendrapara district.

Forest personnel swung into action after receiving a report that superstitious local residents of Balipapala village within the limits of Mahakalpada police station had held the owl captive in the temple precincts.

“The residents thought the bird was sacred and it brought luck and prosperity for the village. Devotees had also begun offering puja to the bird in the temple. We rescued the avian species from captivity yesterday. Later it was released in the nearby forest area after veterinary surgeons found it in perfect health,” Mahakalpada Forest Range Officer, Bijoy Parida said.

He said the barn, owl which had whitish patches over its body, was a protected species under schedule 3 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

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“It is heartening to note that the temple management ensured no harm is done to the creature. There are many tales related to owls in Hindu mythology and this is the reason why the bird was being worshipped,” Parida said.

“The owl might have strayed into the temple to prey on mice. Besides, it also appears probable that the bird might have been attacked by a predator in the forest. Later it might have sneaked into the temple after a hectic nocturnal flight,” he said.

Barn owls specialise in hunting small mammals, which they locate by sound. Bhitarkanika is a safe and congenial habitat for owls. Though no head count of these species has been done yet, the national park is home to over 100 barn owls, the Forest Range Officer added.