POITIERS, FRANCE - A french owl breeder whose birds did a star turn in a Harry Potter film was acquitted on Tuesday of wildlife violations that had seen his beloved birds confiscated and banned from performing.
A court in central France noted the man's "lack of intent" to violate the rules over keeping and working with protected species, and ordered the three eagle owls to be returned to him.
However, the birds are still not allowed to do public performances, because giving them permission to do so is beyond the powers of the court.
The national hunting and wildlife authorities seized the owls and put them in an aviary after an inspection in January last year that turned up violations, including the lack of authorisation to fly the animals at events.
"They're depressed. They can fly only with me," said the amateur breeder, who is based in western France. "I'm their keeper and yet I can't do anything with them."
He raised the birds from birth for public performances, which have included the first Harry Potter film.