Last updated October 11, 2017 at 10:12 am
This is a story about protecting wildlife, hard work bearing results, and about peace.
Farmers in Israel were using poison to kill the rodents that threatened their crops without realising this was also poisoning the local barn owls and kestrels that prey on those little critters. So researchers from Tel-Aviv University stepped in with a better idea.
They worked with the farmers and the government to build nest boxes for the birds. The theory was the more birds, the fewer rodents. And it worked!
The next step for the scientists was to look across their borders – borders don’t exist for wildlife! – and introduce the concept to farmers in Jordan and Palestine. They asked the Israeli farmers to help them, and next thing you know, the Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian farmers were working together, building relationships and seeing that they have more in common than they have differences.
I’m sure it was a bit more complicated than that – but that is the crux of the story. The scientists involved created a win-win situation – not only were they actively conserving wildlife, but they were fostering peace.
Israel is a beautiful, fascinating, richly historic place filled with wonderful people (and a surprisingly high output of world-class science). I was able to visit last year and I loved it.
However, the racial and political divides are very real and very obvious wherever you go and whoever you speak to. To know that there can be a tangible way to make progress is incredibly exciting. We often think about science saving us in terms of technological development. It can be so much simpler, so much more holistic than that.
One of the researchers who analysed the effect of this project, Alexandre Roulin of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, puts it like this:
“The combination of nature conservation and peace-building is not only important, but it also brings a new message of hope that our society is looking for. We hope to persuade the international community to consider such projects as diplomatic tools to pave the road to peace.”
So far, the team is planning an educational program in Europe, weighing interest from the Swiss and Chinese armies, and has their sights set on an ambitious target – North and South Korea.
Hopefully, like me, this story has made you feel as warm and fuzzy as a barn owl chick snuggling safe and sound in a nest box somewhere far, far away.
- Check out the research here: bit.ly/2ncVPCh
- Image credit: Hagai Aharon, or supplied by author