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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Two lessons from the barn owls

Al Arabiya English last week aired a very nice story about cooperation between Israel and Jordan in using barn owls as a natural way to control pests.


Seven barn owl chicks nestled together in a wooden box in Israel's Beit Shean valley are not fuzzy and cute exotic pets, but they have become functional as they are the success of a decade-long project to use their species as biological pesticides.

In 2002, Jordanian and Israeli farmers wanted to end the use of poisons and toxic pest controls but still needed a way to safeguard their products from rats and mice.

The farmers, along with Israel's Society for the Protection of Nature and Jordan's General Mansour Abu-Rashid, began placing nesting boxes where the barn owls would breed in, up to 2,600 boxes in fields on the Israeli side of the border, hundred which are used by Jordanian farmers.

According to Ornithologist Dr. Motti Charter from Haifa University, around ten years would pass until an Israeli male owl and Jordanian female owl coupled up and bred.

"For them, they don't know that the border is here and they probably met, you know, not like people at a bar or something like that, they met one night and decided to have -- that they fell in love and they started a nest here," Charter said. "The whole concept is that, you know, it doesn't matter if it's Jordanian or Israel, they're barn owls. And for us it's a great success story because it shows, because of the Jordanians started thinking differently, started using the barn owls, they succeeded."

I'm not sure who had the story first, Al Arabiya or Reuters or the BBC. Green Prophet seems to be the source for the story.

It is a very nice story, and one that is tailor-made for Western audiences. It shows that Israels and Arabs can and do cooperate on projects that are mutually beneficial.

It would be nicer if the Arabic media would cover this story as well. 

So far I haven't found a single article about this Arab-Israeli cooperation in Arabic-language media. (Jordan's Ammon News published the English Al Arabiya story.)

If there will ever be real peace, articles like this must be published in the Arabic media where ordinary Arabs can see that Israel is not as one-dimensionally evil as it is usually portrayed.

(The story can also help stop incidents such as this one where Jordanians bragged about killing an owl, and videotaped themselves doing it.)