March 26, 2012
The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) is advising that it is illegal to molest or hunt owls. Members of the public are being asked not to disturb or injure these birds which are protected under the Wild Life Protection Act (WLPA).
There is a noticeable increase in the numbers of injured owls which are reported to NEPA and the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA). NEPA routinely responds to wildlife incident reports via the JSPCA and directly to the Agency. Based on investigations, the birds have been hurt mainly due to stoning.
Under the WLPA, it is illegal to hunt, injure or molest any protected animal or protected bird. Anyone caught in breach can be fined up to $100,000 and/or imprisoned for up to one year. Possession of the whole or part of any protected animal or protected bird; including being in possession of the nest or egg of a protected bird is also an offence under the Act.
There are two types of owls found in Jamaica. They are the Barn Owl (Tyto alba) and the Jamaican Owl (Pseudoscops grammicus) which is an endemic species; that is, it is only found in Jamaica.
Both birds are being threatened. However, the Barn Owl which is generally bigger in size is the more commonly injured.
Owls play a very important ecological function by keeping the rodent populations in balance. They eat rats and mice which are their main food source in urban areas.
Members of the public are asked to refrain from hunting or molesting owls or any other protected animal or bird. Only certain types of birds may be hunted and only during the official hunting season. Persons are asked to call NEPA’s Toll Free line at: 1-888-991-5005, or the JSPCA at: 929-0320 to report harm or injury of owls.