Padi farmers in Kepala Batas, Penang are crying out for help because of destruction to their rice crops, but their cries are not in vain for the state Agriculture Department has come to their rescue through the biological control of rats in the paddy fields.
Using barn owls to fight rodent populations is an old idea that is getting a second look by many sectors of the agriculture industry. This is, in part, due to pressure from environmental and consumer groups to reduce agro-chemical use in the field. But credit must also be given to the notion that nature can often be a farmer's ally in battle against pests.
Recognizing the barn owl's value as expert rodent hunters, farmers can easily encourage their presence by providing nesting sites as the birds are attracted to almost any snug, dark cavity. The birds will tolerate a fair amount of noise and commotion around their nest as long as they are not directly threatened. So long as the food supply remains dependable, the owls will return again and again.
University Putra Malaysia’s Assoc Prof Dr Hafidzi Mohd Noor in answering residents queries about barn owls (Star 16 Jan 2017) explained that barn owls were a form of biological control for rats. Compared to snakes, the owl is more suitable for reducing the number of rats, as a male owl can bring up to 10 rats back to its nest in a night.