THABAZIMBI – Two barn owls, aged between three and four weeks, drew a lot of attention at the Thabazimbi Expo this year. They were displayed by Ecosolutions, a rehabilitation centre from Broederstroom.
This centre is responsible for the rehabilitation of between 100 and 150 owls per year and on sale were owl boxes, bat houses and barbet nesting logs, all of which are sold to fund the centre.
According to Zander van Manen of Ecosolutions owls get killed for three main reasons: by vehicles on roads, due to badly chosen nest sites and mythology.
Many owls get killed at night when they swoop down towards easily spotted prey lit up by the headlights of moving vehicles.
A lot are also killed by habitat destruction when trees in which they are nesting are chopped down or fall down and many are killed purely because certain people believe they bring death.
He explained that during a rehabilitation programme young owls between 1 and 7 days old must not imprint on humans, because then they believe they are human themselves. If this happens it is very difficult to release them back into the wild. During this time they get fed by throwing meat into their cages, the way the mother does, and quickly closing the door. They are not hand fed at all and they see as little as possible of humans.
During the release programme a lot of effort goes into ensuring that the owls can survive on their own. An owl’s box will be attached to a tree, preferably in a school ground where there are lights on at night, but not too many other movements. Here they will get a chance to hunt uninterruptedly at first. The learners also participate in the programme. They are informed about the do’s and don’ts and help keep a look out for the owls.
At first the boxes are kept closed and the owls are fed regularly. Then the boxes are opened and the owls still get fed on a regular basis. As soon as the owls starts leaving the food that it is fed, it means they are hunting successfully. As soon as all the food they are fed gets left uneaten, it means they are fully self reliant and the feeding stops.
For any further information about the rehabilitation of owls or owl boxes or bat houses contact Ecosolutions at 072 365 9777.