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Nature vs. nature

By: GAR Posted: June 4, 2017 193 views

Nurhamid, Owl Keeper, 42 years old, Riau

“Rats are a large problem in the plantation because not only do they make nests at the base of the oil palms, they attack growing fruit bunches and eat fallen ripe fruits. An infestation affects yield by as much as five percent. Rats hurts production.

Many plantations use pest control chemicals but they are toxic for the environment and harm wildlife. My job is to control the problem in a safe manner without contaminating the fruit bunches and affecting the oil palms.

Owls are creatures of the night just like the rats they hunt. Their hearing is the most sensitive of any animal ever tested. In fact, owls can locate and capture prey by sound alone. And because their feathers absorb noise, they are efficient predators as they fly silently over their prey in darkness.

Nurhamid at work
Nurhamid at work.

I look after owls in Division 2, and there are 50 gupons (a pair of male and female owls). That’s about a 100 birds, covering 1,500 hectares. My favourite time is when the owls have owlets. Normally, five to six owlets are born each time and I take care of them for two to three months before they are strong enough to fly. The smell is absolutely horrible, especially during the rainy season, but there is great joy in seeing them grow up and become adult birds. It’s not an easy job caring for them and the environment at the same time but I love my owls—they are just the most beautiful things when they soar in the air.

With the owls, we don’t need to use pest control chemicals anymore and can keep the rat population below five percent. This is the beauty of integrated pest management—we are using nature to fight nature.”

GAR has invested significantly in integrated pest management. Read more about how it works here.

Click here to discover more stories behind the extraordinary, everyday lives of the people transforming palm oil.