World of owls, now illustrated in a comic book

Secret School of Owls is a bid to remove mystery and superstition associated with the nocturnal birds

Hidden in the jungles is a 'Secret School of Owls' and a forest owlet Gaanbandhu is locked in battle with Koel the cuckoo for the top spot in a singing competition.

The authors of an 80-page comic book Secret School of Owls ensure that Gaanbandhu is the winner. After all, the book is aimed at protecting the nocturnal birds. The book blows some myths and superstition associated with owls, and tells the reader how the birds are useful to farmers.

Owls are commonly found in trees near graveyards and hence wrongly associated with death. They are often killed by superstitious people for black magic. Such instances are still being reported, ornithologist Dr Satish Pande told The Indian Express. Pande who co-authored the book with wife Suruchi said they wanted to remove stigma attached to these beautiful birds.

Like Gaanbandhu, several colourful characters like Raktalochan, the Mottled Wood Owl — an endemic species in India — WutWut, Mr Bubu and even villains like the black bandits come alive in the comic book, the first by ornithologists to save owls.

All 26 species of owls in the book with Sanskrit-based Indian names are depicted as various characters in the Secret School of Owls. The idea is to make various facets about these birds easy to understand

for children.

There is a purpose to each story. The authors in one chapter ensure that Gaanbandhu, the forest owlet that has a melodious call — incidentally, the forest owlet (duda) had recently been pitched as the state bird of Maharashtra to replace the green pigeon) — wins against the sweet and lovely voice of Koel.

In another chapter, Raktalochan is depicted as an 'Ulloo', a spotted owlet's uncle, who tells him not to make noise during a funeral as people wrongly associate their calls with that of death. Owls ask, "We are present here all throughout the year. The trees are located near the graveyards, is that our fault?"

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