Twow­its twowoos of rare baby owls

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Front Page - By KEN MCER­LAIN ken.mcer­lain@ jpress.co.uk @Etken­m­cer­lain

A PAIR of new feath­ered ar­rivals at a lo­cal wildlife sanc­tu­ary could be the rarest types of owl in the coun­try.

Staff at the Ex­otic Pets Refuge in Deep­ing St James, near Mar­ket Deep­ing, were shocked when eggs laid by Spot, a spot­ted African owl, hatched into two baby birds.

Spot had mated with Raj, an In­dian ea­gle owl – and staff at the cen­tre say it is highly un­likely that the two breeds would ever meet in the wild, let alone mate.

Owner and founder of the cen­tre Pam Mans­field said: “The whole thing hap­pened by ac­ci­dent.

“Spot and Raj may have mated be­fore in our aviary, be­cause Spot has pro­duced a num­ber of eggs over the last few years, but none have ever hatched.

“So we as­sumed it would be safe to keep them in the aviary to­gether, but about six weeks ago, two of Spot’s eggs hatched.

“It would be very un­usual for an African and an In­dian owl to meet in the wild so the two ba­bies must be very rare. I’ve cer­tainly never heard of any­one else breed­ing their type.

“They don’t have names yet, as you don’t know the sex of an owl for sev­eral weeks, and we have no idea what to call their breed.

“One is very tame and comes into the house with me and watches TV, while the other is very timid and won’t leave its mum.

“They both look like gi­ant balls of dust, but they’re very cute.

“We’ll be look­ing to keep them here.”

It is not the first time that the baby owl’s fa­ther Raj has been in the head­lines.

In Oc­to­ber last year Raj es­caped dur­ing a dis­play at Peter­bor­ough City Mar­ket and was on the loose for over a week un­til be­ing spot­ted and re­cap­tured in New­bor­ough.

Owl ex­pert Camp­bell Murn from the Hawk Con­ser­vancy Trust said that the baby owls were cer­tainly rare - but warned that pro­duc­ing hy­brid species was not a good idea.

Mr Murn said: “You don’t need to be an ex­pert to re­alise that an owl from Africa and an owl from In­dia would sel­dom meet in the wild.

“How­ever, it’s not un­com­mon for the two species to be kept to­gether in cap­tiv­ity as they are both from the same genus and in bi­o­log­i­cal terms it’s not im­plau­si­ble for them to pro­duce off­spring.

“Breed­ing hy­brid owls is not best prac­tice. They may grow up in­fer­tile but if they were then to breed with an­other owl their off­spring could have se­vere health prob­lems.”

Jemima Parry-jones, from the In­ter­na­tional Cen­tre for Bird of Prey, added: “These baby owls will be rare in the UK.

“It is ir­re­spon­si­ble to breed two dif­fer­ent types of owl even though the par­ents, in this case, are genetically sim­i­lar.”

The Ex­otic Pet Refuge will be hold­ing an open day on Sun­day, May 20. For more de­tails call 01778 345923.

proud par­ents: The African and In­dian owls, and, above, one of the chicks with Pam Mans­field.

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