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Two new hooting classmates in Morningside

Morningside Pre-primary welcomes two barn owls into the school’s release pen.

A pair of four to five-week-old barn owls became officially enrolled at Simply Kidz Academy on May 17, as learning companions.

Environmental consultant Sara Orchardson, from the EcoSolutions Urban Ecology Owl Group, brought Johnson and Thomson over to the Morningside-based pre-primary school – where they were welcomed with exuberant enthusiasm by the learners.

“These are wild owls that came from the Johannesburg Wildlife Vet; they are not pets, they are wild owls,” Orchardson said. “When owlets can’t be placed back to their original nesting, we put them through a release programme, such as this one.

Sara Orchardson brings two juvenile barn owls to Simply Kidz Academy.

“Owlets are placed into a release pen for 21 days so that they get used to the area, the noises and sounds,” Orchardson explained. “Doing it at schools is great because you can wrap education into it, which is awesome for the kids.”

Barn owls, Orchardson praised, are an exceptionally sustainable way of curbing rodent infestations without the use of rat poison.

“Barn owls create a poison-free environment; they are a perfect ally for poison-free, sustainable rodent control,” Orchardson said. “They are still juveniles, so this will be their surrogate-parents’ territory. They’ll come around for food if they’re hungry – like if they don’t hunt very well.”

Orchardson explained that the academy serves as the owlets’ surrogate family until they’re ready to live independently. Simply Kidz Academy school principal Fezeka Mdladla briefly spoke on how exposure to animals enhances her learners.

“We’ve been doing this for a while, simply because we want our learners to know how to take care of animals. Not just owls, but a variety,” Mdladla said. “It just so happens that we got this opportunity to work closely with the EcoSolutions Urban Ecology Owl Group. When the organisation has owls available, they come to our school, and the kids get to see how owls act during the day and help with the feeding.”

Related article: Rehabilitation three owlets at Bryanston

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