USM, BORG embark on BOSI programme to tackle rodent problem

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GEORGE TOWN – Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) together with the Barn Owl and Rodent Research Group (BORG) are undertaking the Barn Owl for Oil Palm Smallholders Initiatives (BOSI) programme to control rodents in oil palm plantations.

BORG coordinator and USM School of Biological Sciences lecturer Associate Professor Dr Hasber Salim said the initiative was carried out in collaboration with the Malaysian Palm Oil Green Conservation Foundation (MPOGCF) and was able to help smallholders effectively control and reduce the rat population.

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“BOSI is a special project that sees the handing over and installation of 20 nest boxes known by the scientific name tyto javanica javanica to smallholders in Mukim Bagan Samak, Bandar Baharu in Kedah.

“The boxes supplied have been designed with the aim of attracting barn owls as safe and suitable nesting sites for breeding and gardeners are also given a demonstration of proper installation,” he said in a statement today.

He said the box also includes the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) mapping techniques to ensure that bird nest boxes are evenly distributed at a density of one box for every five hectares in the area.

Hasber said that throughout the duration of the project, the research team will closely monitor the occupancy rate of barn owls in the installed nest boxes and breeding rates as well as monitor the population density of rats in the area.

He said BORG was also excited to be working with MPOGCF which he described as not only sharing the same objective of conserving biodiversity but also funding and providing full support to ensure that the project runs smoothly in the next two years.

“The barn owl has been widely proven to be an effective agent in the biological control of rodent pests in oil palm plantations, especially in this country and based on researchers’ studies, rodents can make up to 99 per cent of the barn owl’s diet. A pair and their young can eat about 1,300 rats a year,” he said.

Meanwhile, MPOGCF General Manager Zamakhshari Muhamad said his party was committed to supporting conservation and environmental sustainability efforts, especially those related to the palm oil industry.

He also expressed confidence in the output through the implementation of BOSI in raising awareness among smallholders about the effectiveness of using barn owls as a long-term solution to the pest problem. – Bernama

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