A comical-looking bird had a lucky escape after being kidnapped by Indian black magic poachers.
The juvenile dusky eagle owl had its talons trimmed off by two men who intended to illegally sell its body parts.
In India, owls are considered lucky and are still poached for their bones and blood.
The distressed creature was spotted by a concerned animal lover in a village in Agra, in north India, who alerted charity Wildlife SOS.
Co-founder of Wildlife SOS Kartick Satyanarayan said the animal was recovering well under their care.
‘The bird’s condition is improving, but very slowly,’ he explains. ‘We are hoping that once it improves fully and the claws are able to grow back, and if it’s able to manage on its own in the wild, we can release it.
‘That’s our dream and that’s exactly what we want to do. We want to put it back in the wild where it belongs.’
Wildlife SOS is a non-profit organisation and is one of the largest rescue and conservation charities in South Asia.
Satyanarayan, who is also head of the organisation’s anti-poaching unit, Forest Watch, says: ‘We haven’t give this baby owl a name and we would prefer to not give it a name and have it released back in the wild.
‘It’s too young to be sexed, so we don’t know if it’s male or female and it’s certainly a fledgling – a chick – it can’t fly on its own yet.
‘And for now, it’s able to eat and accept food which is what we were really worried about when we rescued it.’
Hunting and trading of all Indian owl species is banned under the country’s 1972 Wildlife Protection Act, but the birds remain at risk due to demand from the black market.
‘Dusky eagle owls are an extremely vulnerable species. They are extremely hard to see and it’s considered really good fortune if you get to see one,’ says Kartick.
‘Such incidents confirm that wildlife trade goes on right under our noses in the country.
‘Owls are poached for their body parts such as talons, skulls, bones and blood due to the religious myths and superstitious beliefs tied to them.’