MTN is building boxes on 100 cell phone towers – to house Barn Owls

Business Insider SA

MTN owl box cell phone towers
MTN owl box (Image: MTN)
  • Barn owls like nesting in cell phone towers, which is an issue for maintenance crews and the birds alike.
  • Owls need to be safely removed from these towers before maintenance and repair work can be carried out, leading to delays.
  • Owlets often get stuck in the tall towers before being rescued and relocated.
  • To combat these issues, MTN is installing 100 owl boxes on their cell phone towers in Johannesburg in partnership with the Owl Rescue Centre.
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South African telecommunications giant MTN aims to install 100 boxes on cell phone towers in Johannesburg to house urban-dwelling Barn Owls which have taken a disruptive liking to these man-made masts.

Barn Owls like nesting in network towers. These high-reaching steel structures which provide mobile network coverage also offer owls a good vantage point of their surroundings and a safe space for females to lay their eggs and rear their young, according to South Africa's Owl Rescue Centre.

"This delays maintenance work on towers as eggs and young birds need to be removed before technicians can access the tower cables and equipment," says Danelle Murray, cofounder and director of Owl Rescue Centre.

In addition to delaying maintenance and repairs, this nesting arrangement is also dangerous for owlets which can become trapped in the tall towers before being rescued and relocated.

To limit disruptions to its maintenance programme and preserve the Barn Owl population – which has steadily declined in tune with rapid human expansion – MTN has launched a conservation partnership with the Owl Rescue Centre.

The project, known as the #OwlNetwork, will see 100 Barn Owl boxes installed on network towers in high-density areas. The first boxes will be attached to towers in Johannesburg, with MTN planning an expansion into other cities.

"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.

"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."

The Owl Rescue Centre's owl houses are made from 100% recycled plastic as a solution to combat plastic waste and require no maintenance.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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