First the good news
Barn owls, Tyto alba, have been a key aspect of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in oil palm plantations in West Malaysia since the 1980s, after initial research indicated that a pair of barn owls and their offspring could consume up to 2000 rats a year, and that 98 per cent of their diet consists of Rats (Duckett, 1980). Barn owls are encouraged to populate many estates in Peninsular Malaysia by the siting of wooden or plastic nest-boxes on poles, at a density of one per 10 ha.
The use of owls in oil palm, and barn owls in particular, is often cited as an example of environmentally-friendly pest control. Barn owls, it could be said, are a symbol of the oil palm industry’s commitment to combine the best agricultural practices with environmentally-friendly resource management.
Now the bad news
In June 2009, a shocking report was published in an international ornithological journal, BirdingASIA, detailing a horrific tale of hundreds of barn owls in Peninsular Malaysia being trapped, slaughtered, skinned and exported to be served as a delicacy in restaurants in China (Shepherd & Shepherd, 2009). The article reported that 1236 owls, most of them barn owls, had been seized in two raids by PERHILITAN on warehouses in Johor and Pahang in November 2008 and January 2009.
Shocked by what he read, and determined to find out more about these events, David Bakewell (DB) arranged an interview with one of the authors of the paper, Chris Shepherd.
Download the full article below for the interview.
Download the ArticleIs Your Integrated Pest Management Going to Pot? (882 downloads)
About Biodiversity for Busy Managers
This article was produced under Biodiversity for Busy Managers, an initiative by Wild Asia and the Malaysian Palm Oil Council to develop useful and practical resources for those on the front line of land development. The idea is to inspire, share and guide managers and planners about the key biodiversity issues that apply to land development, and to look at opportunities for inspiring change. More information on Biodiversity for Busy Managers is available at Biodiversity for Busy Managers.