Indonesian village gives owls their jobs back

SPH Brightcove Video
A small town in Indonesia has given owls their traditional job of pest control back - rejecting a growing trend in selling owls or 'Harry Potter Birds' as many call them.
Owls for sale are seen inside a cage at a bird market in Tangerang, west of Jakarta, Indonesia, Sept 17, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

TLOGOWERU, INDONESIA (REUTERS) - The owls of Tlogoweru have their jobs back.

Six years ago farmers in this small Indonesian village were fighting a losing battle against rats and other pests ravaging their crops.

They tried smoking out the pests, but it failed. Hunting them was also impractical. The villagers also wanted to avoid using pesticides for fear of damaging their crops.

Pujo Arto had an idea. Bring back a natural predator - the barn owl.

Since then, the farmer-turned-breeder has raised nearly 2,000 owls through his Natural Predator Programme and released them into the wild to combat pests.

"We fostered awareness within our community by building homes for these owls, while government officials helped in implementing laws," said Arto, 50.

Common barn owls, due to their size and diet, were most suited for the job, Arto said.

In the wild, a barn owl will lay between three and 12 eggs, but not many nestlings survive. Arto brings the eggs back to the facility to increase the survival rate, releasing the birds back into the wild when they are four months old.

So far, Arto has set up 140 nesting boxes in the village for the owls to lay their eggs, the houses standing tall on posts amidst the green fields of corn.

Deforested land used for agriculture reduces locations for nesting, so the boxes provide the birds with an incentive to stay and thrive.

The local government has supported Arto's programme by putting into place a law that bans shooting or disturbing birds in the area.

Thanks to Arto's initiative, Tlogoweru village has now become a popular destination for people looking to learn about the importance of maintaining a balanced ecosystem in nature.

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