Endangered owl stolen from zoo after its cage is broken

The seven-year-old owl was stolen by breaking a cage; its partner in the same cage was spared

Pune: A seven-year-old owl was stolen from the Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park after breaking its cage in the wee hours on Sunday, raising concerns over the ‘tight’ security of the zoo.

The cage that was broken to steal the owl
The cage that was broken to steal the owl

Incidentally, the Central Zoo Authority declared this zoo (popularly known as Katraj snake park) as the ‘Model Zoo’ in the west region of the country in 2010, which has 15 guards manning its 130-acre area. The male owl belonging to the Great Horned owl (Bubo bubo) species was stolen by breaking its cage. Its partner, who was spared, has now been shifted to another cage.

Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl

“On Sunday morning, I came to feed the animals and birds as is the norm. It was then that I noticed the owl was missing from the cage. After inspection, it was observed that someone had broken the iron cage and fled with one of the birds,” said Shyamrao Kamble, security guard of the zoo, who informed the veterinary doctor Navnath Nigote.

Nigote alerted the police, who think that somebody who knows the area is involved.

The zoo authorities have decided to beef up the security post the theft, which is the second incident of animal theft in the zoo after 2007.

Dr Rajkumar Jadhav, director of the zoo said, “There are three CCTV cameras placed, but none cover that area because we did not feel that somebody can commit a theft there. However, we will now install CCTV cameras covering the entire area of the zoo.”

Inspector Vijaysinh Gaikwad said, “A case has been registered under Section 397 (Robbery or dacoity, with attempt to cause death or grievous hurt) and we are probing it.”

Black magic behind theft?

Police and a city-based ornithologist are suspecting that black magic could be the reason behind the theft. “This is really a security lapse. The bird comes under the Convention on International trade in Endangered species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). Such birds are used for black magic and other superstitious purposes. The bird has high price in the international market and are in great demand in northern parts of India,” said Dr Satish Pande, city-based ornithologist, adding that its eyes and claws are thought to have supernatural powers and its soft and abundant feathers are used for making dresses.

Tiger owl
The great horned owl, also known as the tiger owl, is generally coloured for camouflage. It mainly eats small mammals, birds and reptiles. It prefers shady areas and its nesting period starts from November to April.

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