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Universal Orlando frees animatronic Hedwig the owl from cage in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

by Chelsea Tatham Zukowski
Courtesy of The Protego Foundation

Visitors venturing to Hogsmeade might notice a small but impactful change to Platform 9 3/4 at Universal Orlando Resort’s Wizarding World. Harry Potter’s beloved snowy white owl, Hedwig, is no longer inside a cage.

The Protego Foundation, an animal rights organization inspired by the Wizarding World, celebrated the change to the animatronic owl. Since 2014, Hedwig has been stationed inside a cage atop a trunk labeled “HP,” greeting guests waiting to hop on the Hogwarts Express train.

“While this animatronic isn’t harmed by living her life in a cage, real owls are hurt when they are kept in a cage and denied everything natural and important to them, like hunting, flying, choosing a mate, and more,” The Protego Foundation’s president, Tylor Starr, said in a press release.

Starr and the organization also thanked Universal Creative, The Blair Partnership, and Warner Bros. “for making this kind and compassionate change.”

“And we are eager to see other caged magical creature animatronics get their liberation, as well,” Starr said.

The Protego Foundation was created to advocate for the protection of animals, like owls, by inspiring fans of the magical creatures seen in the Wizarding World. In a press release, the organization points to the “Harry Potter” fandom having a “sordid history with live owls” since the first movie was released.

The organization also has an extensive resource page cataloging the use of live owls in the Wizarding World films, stage productions, fan conventions, studio tours, and at the theme parks. Last year, Forbes reported that Warner Bros. confirmed it would no longer use live owls at any other Wizarding World parks or shows.

For several years at Universal Studios Japan, live owls were used as photo ops in the Wizarding World. And in an early showing of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” a live owl became endangered after flying away from its trainer and into the auditorium.

The tab for Universal Orlando Resort shows no reports of owls being used at any opening ceremonies or attractions.

“Guests young and old visiting the magical Wizarding World of Harry Potter won’t see a bird forced to live their life in a depressing cage,” Starr said. “But will instead see an animatronic example of a bird now able to spread her wings and live her life outside of cage bars.”

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