Harry Potter films blamed for abandoned owls increase at north Wales sanctuary

image captionOwls bred as pets would not survive in the wild, says Ian Toothill

An owl sanctuary says it is still feeling the unwanted effect of the Harry Potter films, with high numbers of owls being abandoned.

It is claimed owls' popularity as pets increased in the last decade with many keen to copy JK Rowling's schoolboy hero with his companion Hedwig.

Ian Toothill, of the North Wales Owl Sanctuary, says about 90% of the birds are abandoned "captive-bred" pets.

He says people often do not realise owls smell and are not good pets.

Mr Toothill and his wife Pam have more than 100 birds at the Corwen sanctuary.

Demand for their services increased after the release of the Harry Potter films, which featured actor Daniel Radcliffe with a pet snowy owl.

Mr Toothill said: "We have had quite a big increase in owls coming in from the pet industry over the last 10 years.

"There has always been a market for pets for owls for many years, but since Harry Potter came out the increase probably doubled or tripled overnight."

While the Potter films saw a surge in pet owls, Mr Toothill said the desire for status symbols meant the problem continued, and there were also parents who "can't say no to their children".

He said many birds were "captive-bred" abroad for the pet industry, often taken from their parents as eggs, and would not survive in the wild.

He said they did not "make good pets at all," have sharp talons and can "nip quite badly".

It is known that some owls can live for 50 years.

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