With the high mortality rate of owls, MTN has launched a conservation partnership with the Owl Rescue Centre in Hartbeespoort to provide safe homes for owls nesting in MTN towers.

Brendan Murray of the Owl Rescue Centre installs an MTN owl box.

The rescue centre is repeatedly called out to cellphone towers to remove owls nesting in the towers. “MTN has a responsibility to protect the environment so that our customers and communities can live in harmony with their surroundings,” says Jacqui O’Sullivan, MTN SA’s Executive for Corporate Affairs. O’Sullivan says MTN decided to take active steps when it became clear that there were growing numbers of barn owl families nesting in MTN towers.

“They are naturally drawn to urban areas, preferring to make their nests within existing structures and feed off rodents that are prevalent in urban environments. MTN towers are often a favoured location for a nest,” says O’Sullivan.

MTN chose to work with the Owl Rescue Centre on Project #OwlNetwork thanks to its proud history of rescue and rehabilitation of owls around the country. The Owl Rescue Centre team travels all over South Africa removing owls and other raptor nests, eggs and young from cell towers – but this comes at a cost and they can’t be expected to do it all themselves. They have been doing an amazing job in ensuring the safety of both the owls and the mobile operator technicians, and we had no hesitation in partnering with them to do even more to help,” says O’Sullivan. “MTN believes in the power of connectivity to brighten lives and this means we need to be increasingly aware of our environment, of nature and the need to work together to do no harm.”

The project was launched in August, and approximately 100 owl boxes will be installed in network towers in North West and Gauteng from where the project will move to other provinces. The owl boxes are being made from recycled materials.

Danelle Murray, co-founder and director of Owl Rescue Centre says the top of towers and often, the inside floor areas are used for nests. “This delays maintenance work on towers as eggs and young birds need to be removed before technicians can access the tower cables and equipment. Owl houses provide a safe nesting site, which in turn will help grow the owl population in suburbs, creating a natural solution to rodent control. Owls don’t make their own nests, instead, they make use of man-made structures, such as owl houses, to breed in,” she says.
Through #OwlNetwork project, the Owl Rescue Centre will make the owl boxes from recycled plastic. These boxes are durable and can be used for several years without any maintenance being necessary. It will provide the owls with a sheltered spot to nest that will not interfere with the network and technicians. Saving owls gives my life a distinct purpose and meaning, and I will always consider it a great privilege. We thank MTN for hearing the call for corporates to do more to help protect, rehabilitate and grow the populations of these wonderful – but increasingly threatened – species. It is imperative nature and animals are protected in our interconnected and interdependent existence,” Murray says.

“MTN believes in the power of connectivity to brighten lives and this means we need to be increasingly aware of our environment, of nature and the need to work together to do no harm,” says O’Sullivan.

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