To make room for agriculture, trees and other plants are often cleared away so that farmers have space to grow crops.
The clearing of forests forces many animals from their homes. They often flee the area in search of a new place to live.
There is a big downside to that.
Some of those animals are natural predators. They control pest populations. They can help to clear the fields of rats, mice, and other rodents that eat and damage crops.
This happened at one small farming village in Indonesia. After land was cleared for farming, rats and mice began appearing in large numbers. Villagers tried to target the animals by smoking them out and hunting them. But the villagers were unsuccessful.
So, one farmer decided to try another method -- a natural one.
Pujo Arto brought owls to his farm. Owls, after all, are experts at hunting rodents. It is what they do. And it worked!
However, Pujo Arto didn't stop with his own field. He set up a Natural Predator Program. Now, owls are busy catching rats and mice in the fields around the village of Tlogoweru.
There is a huge upside: no need for chemical pesticides, which can harm not only rodents, but other creatures.
In 2011, the Indonesian man began setting up boxes where the owls live. He is also raising owlets in the village. After about four months, the young birds are released.
These facilities have raised more than owls. They have also raised awareness in the community about the importance of owls.
"We raised awareness within our community by building homes for these owls. At the same time, government officials helped to create laws to protect these owls."
In addition to controlling pests naturally, there is another upside to the program. His village is now a popular stop for eco-tourists. People interested in learning more about owls, wildlife protection and natural pest control come to his village to learn more.
Do owls make good pets?
For owls, awareness is good, but popularity is not.
Because of the Harry Potter books and movies, owls are increasingly popular as pets in Indonesia. So, many are sold in local bird markets.
However, owls are wild animals and may not be a good choice to keep around the home. Before buying an owl, experts warn people about the downsides of owning one as a pet.
Owls are loud. They can require a lot of care and attention. More importantly, they can be aggressive and can cause damage or injury. Their sharp claws are made for catching small animals and can injure the owner.
One Indonesian man, a father, did his homework. He knew all of these downsides. But that did not stop him from buying his daughter an owl ... or from getting hurt himself.
"As parents, we usually give our children what they want. That is, if we can. But before getting an owl, we had to learn more about the nature of an owl. And coincidentally, just recently, I got clawed."
This is exactly the kind of situation Pujo Arto is trying to end. To date, his program has raised and released more than 2,000 birds. He hopes the program will continue to provide farmers owls for natural pest control.
But Arto adds that he hopes his program also shows people that owls belong in the wild as natural predators not in the home as domestic pets.
I'm Anna Matteo.
Faith Lapidus reported on this story for VOA News. Anna Matteo adapted it for Learning English writing additional information about owl conservation. George Grow was the editor.
Words in this Story
downside – n. a part of something that you do not want or like : a drawback or disadvantage
predator – n. an animal that lives by killing and eating other animals : an animal that preys on other animals
rodent – n. a small animal (such as a mouse, rat, squirrel, or beaver) that has sharp front teeth
upside – n. a part of something that is good or desirable : an advantage or benefit
pesticide – n. a chemical that is used to kill animals or insects that damage plants or crops
awareness – n. a realization, perception, or knowledge of something
eco-tourist – n. one who tours natural habitats in a manner meant to minimize ecological impact
pet – n. a domesticated animal kept for pleasure rather than utility
aggressive – adj. ready and willing to fight, argue, etc. : feeling or showing aggression
claw – n. a sharp curved part on the toe of an animal (such as a cat or bird) : claw – v. to scratch, grip, or dig with claws or fingers
coincidentally – adv. happening because of a coincidence : not planned
domestic – adj. relating to or involving someone's home or family