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Potter mania a curse for wildlife centre

THE curse of Harry Potter has hit experts at Sandiway's Cheshire Wildlife.

THE curse of Harry Potter has hit experts at Sandiway's Cheshire Wildlife.

Staff at the Blakemere-based wildlife centre have been inundated with requests from parents determined to buy an owl as a Christmas gift for their children.

As part of its awareness programme, staff from the region's premier falconry centre have been displaying falcons and owls at venues across Cheshire and they have been repeatedly asked if they sell owls like Hedwig the snowy owl in the blockbuster movie.

Proprietor Stephen Birchall said: 'We made it quite clear that although we kept owls as part of our stock at our Blakemere headquarters, we could never sell an owl to a private individual.

'Owls are very difficult to look after and to handle.

'Specialist treatment and experience are required to look after these animals and we have no intention of selling them to the general public.

'But, sadly, some parents seem determined to buy an owl for their children for Christmas. However, if they succeed they could well live to regret it.'

Mr Birchall, who with his wife, Fay, has been raising birds of prey for years, said the sharp beak and talons of an owl could cause injury if the bird was not handled properly.

Although there is nothing illegal about owning an owl -­ and those in captivity are thought to outnumber the UK's 4,000-strong wild population experts agree they do not make an ideal pet.

But with barn owls fetching up to £40 and snowy owls, like the film's Hedwig, selling for up to £200, there is little doubt that the Harry Potter movie will increase sales.

Mr Birchall said he is already getting record numbers of visitors to his aviary at Blakemere.

And he has even produced a Christmas gift voucher for children, to give them the opportunity to handle and fly owls under the supervision of experts.

'There is no reason why they can't fly an owl like Harry Potter, but it makes sense to do it with experts,' he said.

* Further information from Cheshire Wildlife on 882223.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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