- BirdLife Zimbabwe is developing a proposal to produce a documentary that will be aired on national television to demystify the presence of owls in residential areas.
Realising the strong negative folklore surrounding owls within the country, BirdLife Zimbabwe staff are also 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”, said Rueben Njolomole - BirdLife Zimbabwe’s Education Officer. “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!”
If the proposal gets funding, a thirty-minute long documentary will be aired before the end of the year.
The Chitofu family living in Eastlea, Zimbabwe, feared that they had been bewitched by an owl which had haunted them for four months and refused to fly away when approached.
Worried for their lives, the family called in BirdLife 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 Njolomole.
He 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,” he further explained.
Njolomole also 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,” he said.
In Zimbabwe’s Shona culture - as in many parts of the world - owls are associated with death and misfortune. This link may be due to their predominately nocturnal activity and screeching-type calls.
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