Cultural clashes over Owl Box project
The beheading of owls by residents of Alexandra is reportedly a regular occurrence since the second introduction of the Owl Box Project by the City of Johannesburg. The initiative - brought in by the City of Johannesburg three years ago – was introduced into Alex to address a severe rat infestation. With school children also found cutting off the legs of these owls as well, it begs the question – what could be the reasons behind this behavior? Some observers speculate that cultural perceptions of owls being ‘creatures of evil’ could account for this resistance.
A couple of weeks ago on the Midday Report, MMC for Health in the City of Johannesburg, Nonceba Mawele said that before the project was launched, the community was given workshops that familiarized them with the presence and the purpose of the owls that would be placed in the community.
Following reports of resistance by residents in Alex, Xolani Gwala followed up with City of Johannesburg Health Director, Peter Mangani, who refuted claims of mutilation and abuse:
this is new information that we will have to investigate to find out exactly what happened where and then how we would intervene in that situation. Of course we have different beliefs and backgrounds, but the more information we have shared the better the community’s reception of the owls has been
Eco-Solutions – the owl-handling company responsible for the project – support Mangani’s statements, stating that there had been no formal complaints lodged with the SPCA pertaining to this case. MD of Eco-Solutions, Jonathan Haw
The kids in the townships are the ones who are involved in this project, so far the township project has dealt with 83 000 children. We talk about mythology and mythological fears but from my experience in Alex, those kids are more interested in Instagram and Facebook than they are in the mythological fears of their grandparents. These kids raise those owls, feed those owls and release those owls …
On Friday, John Robbie again spoke to EcoSolutions' Jonathan Haw who says that the organization that made the initial claims that the owls in Alexandra were being mutilated and decapitated have not been able to give evidence to that effect
[After investigation] It came to light that they actually didn't have any information, there wasn't a decapitated owl in Alex - it didn't happen. It was all an attempt to discredit the project, and the organizations that were involved.