Deathly owl scares Zimbabwean family
The Chitofu family living in Eastlea, Zimbabwe, feared that they had been bewitched by an owl which had haunted them for four mlonths and refused to fly away when approached.
Worried for their lives, the family called in BirdLife Zimbabwe (BirdLife in Zimbabwe) staff who identified the bird as a White-faced Scops-owl Otus leucotis. “The father of the family was very scared and did not want to go anywhere near the tree where the owl was perched”, said Rueben Njolomole – BirdLife Zimbabwe’s Education Officer.
Rueben assured the family that the bird was probably just hunting rats found nearby, and this is why it did not fly away when approached. “The owl did not want to leave the source of it’s food, and may have been a domesticated owl which had escaped because it was not scared of humans”.
Rueben explained that having an owl near their house will help to reduce the Chitofu’s rat problem. “Owls can eat thousands of rodents each year, reducing the need for other methods of control”.
Realising the strong negative folklore surrounding owls within the country, BirdLife Zimbabwe staff are now visiting local schools to educate children about the benefits which the birds can bring. “At first many pupils indicate that owls are associated with bad luck and witchcraft”, added Rueben. “However, by the end of our lessons the children realise that owls can help to reduce problems caused by rats at home. It’s great to hear that from the kids!”
BirdLife Zimbabwe are also developing a proposal to produce a documentary that will be aired on national television to demystify the owls. “If the proposal gets funding we expect to produce a thirty-minute long documentary before the end of the year”, concluded Reuben.
July 2010: The number of Sokoke Scops Owls, a tiny endangered owl found in Kenya and Tanzania, has dropped sharply in the past 16 years, according to a new study. The population declined 22.5 per cent over a 16-year period, said Munir Virani, the author of the study which was a joint venture between The Peregrine Fund, the National Museums of Kenya and icipe, an Africa-based insect research organisation: here.
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