More farmers are leaning towards harvesting the power of nature to ensure that their croplands are protected, and now an agricultural university based in Tanzania is encouraging farmers to make use of owls to rid their croplands of rodents.
Dr Georgies Mgode, a researcher from the Pest Management Center at the Sokoine University of Agriculture, spoke at the Nane Nane Exhibitions in Simiyu and said that contrary to popular thought, owls can be a rescuer for farmers, helping to eliminate rodents and pests that harm crops on the farm. “The owl has the great ability to see at night, so it hunts small animals like rats, insects and even birds,” he said.
Dr Mgode went on to say that because owls enjoy eating rats when in big groups in the fields, they drastically lower the number of rats, with each owl able to devour an average of twelve rodents in a single day.
Appetite for rodents
“Some species of owl live in groups and hunt together in groups, so within a single season an owl can eat hundreds of rodents. Owls can easily help control rat numbers and help farmers reduce the use of chemicals in the field,” Mgode added.
He said that in order to attract owls and breed them in big numbers, good conditions must be provided for them, such as building nests for them to live in and pillars for them to stand on at night when they are hunting. These birds spend the day in their nests, but at night they venture out in quest of food.
“Nests can be made in the form of boxes and hung on trees or poles, but where there are enough threes, there’s no need to make a nest.”
Surrounded by superstition
Tanzania is home to more than 1100 different species of bird and more than 15 species of owl. In the country, owls are also the subject of much superstition, so much so, that an owl spotted on the roof of the country’s Parliament in 2019 made news headlines.
“Honourable Members of Parliament, we have been seeing an owl in this House since morning but in the tradition of people of Dodoma, an owl that is seen during daytime cannot have any effect on anyone. This means that we have nothing to worry about regarding its presence,” said speaker Job Ndugai, via a statement released at the time.
The appearance of an owl, or even its hooting, is seen to be a portent of bad luck, ill health, or death in Tanzania, as well as many other African societies. Many spectators speculated that the bird’s appearance was an omen that a major member of Parliament may die.