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Morocco to adopt Israeli method of biological extermination using owls

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Morocco to adopt Israeli method of biological extermination using owls

Joining in on the success of Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, Morocco will be installing nesting boxes for owls, which will enable biological extermination in agriculture without the use of poisonous chemicals that are dangerous for people and the environment.

The man who started the initiative, Prof. Yossi Leshem, is a member of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, an ornithologist and a professor of Zoology at Tel Aviv University.

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Leshem said he met Prof. Imad Chirkawi, an ecologist and bird researcher, at a workshop of Mashav (The Center for International Cooperation) a few years ago. At this meeting, Leshem expressed an interest in leading the initiative in Morocco and the other Maghreb countries like Algiers and Tunisia.

This relation was strengthened after Israel and Morocco established diplomatic ties in December, and next week, Leshem will meet with his Palestinian and Swiss partners at the Dubai Expo to discuss the operative plans to bring the project to Morocco.

“We are seeing the owl is replacing the dove as the harbinger of peace and is proving once again that birds do not have geographical borders,” the professor said. “I am happy to see that the vision is taking shape. I hope that as a result of the meetings in Dubai, the emirates of the UAE who want to use environmentally friendly agriculture and learn from the methods developed in Israel over the last 35 years will also join the initiative.

 Professor Imad Chirkawi with an owl (credit: Courtesy) Professor Imad Chirkawi with an owl (credit: Courtesy)

The Israeli national initiative of using owls and falcons as biological exterminators in agriculture began to take shape in 2008 in cooperation with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, Tel Aviv University, and the ministries of Agriculture, Regional Cooperation and Environmental Protection, among other bodies.

So far, some 5,000 nesting boxes have been placed in the Golan Heights, Galilee, Hula Valley, Jezreel Valley, Beit Shean Valley, the Sharon region, Judea and the South.

The project has been a success in minimizing the use of poisonous chemicals in Israeli agriculture and is expected to reduce it further in the future.

The main food source for owls is rodents, and owls catch between 2,000 and 6,000 rodents every year, depending on the size of the prey.

“The bigger and more sequential the areas are, the bigger the owl population will be and the more consistent and healthy, which will make the project’s success greater,” Leshem said. “Furthermore, regional cooperation can be used as a bridging platform between the Jordanians, the Palestinians and the Israelis. Common efforts will help improve the system, thus helping to develop environmentally-friendly agriculture.”

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Morocco to adopt Israeli method of biological extermination using owls