Conservation collaboration will see captive-born owlet released into the wild

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Through a collaborative conservation effort between Crocworld Conservation Centre on the KZN South Coast; FreeMe Wildlife and The Owl Box Project in the KZN Midlands; and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, a Spotted Eagle Owl born in captivity will soon be released into the wild – with a partner!

Crocworld Conservation Centre, based in Scottburgh, is committed to wildlife rehabilitation and conservation education. Among the centre’s many rescued inhabitants are two Spotted Eagle Owls which cannot be released into the wild, however, that hasn’t stopped this happy couple from hatching two chicks. The pair, which hatched on 10 November 2022, has been reared by their parents, which means there has been no human imprinting, making them eligible for release in the wild.

Crocworld’s Bird Curator, Ryne Ferguson, explained that one of the owlets had already been rehomed in a lovely centre in Johannesburg which is also committed to conservation education, but up until this point, no home had been identified for the second owlet.

“That’s when I reached out to FreeMe Wildlife and The Owl Box Project,” explained Ferguson. “Because there has been no human imprinting, this chick would still know how to survive as an owl in the wild. After working with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the necessary permits are in place, and another Spotted Eagle Owl chick has been found so that the two can be released together. Although the release date is yet to be set, the two will be released through The Owl Box Project.”

Ferguson explained that the owlet had been collected from Crocworld last week, and was already settling down well at FreeMe Wildlife alongside its new partner. Based in Howick, FreeMe Wildlife operates within a ‘One Health’ approach, working across a number of disciplines and collaborating with other organisations to attain optimal health for people, animals and the environment.

The Owl Box Project is run by FreeMe Wildlife as a way to provide homes for orphaned and displaced owls. The owl boxes are specifically designed for various owl breeds, and replicate the cavity of a tree. Residents can purchase owl boxes for urban areas as a way to encourage owl populations in the area. These owl boxes provide a stable environment to enhance breeding success among owls – nature’s greatest biological control for rodents.

Why are Spotted Eagle Owls so important?

Spotted Eagle Owls are incredibly important to the ecosystem. Just one pair of these owls in a residential area can catch up to 3000 rodents – and even more insects – a year.

“The biggest threat facing owls in urban areas, unfortunately, is rodenticides and pesticides,” continued Ferguson. “Residents are urged to use natural pest control measures rather than using poisons so that we can keep these magnificent creatures safe.”

Keep updated on the story by following Crocworld Conservation Centre and Owl Box Project on Facebook.

For more information on Crocworld, visit www.crocworld.co.za or call 039 976 1103. To find out more about the Owl Box Project, visit www.freemwildlife.org, email orders@freemewildlife.org or call 033 330 3036.

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