Israel’s iconic ornithologist, Prof. Yossi Leshem of Tel Aviv University’s zoology department, is the first Israeli to be awarded Germany’s prominent Bruno H. Schubert Prize, which promotes further understanding for the preservation of nature, wildlife, and the environment generally speaking. Leshem formerly was the CEO of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and founded the Tel Aviv University affiliated International Center for the Study of Bird Migration, which has done pivotal environmental research that has aided Israeli society at large.

For example, in his book Flying with the Birds, which won the Yitzhak Sade Prize for Military Literature, Leshem discussed the dangers posed by migrating birds for aircraft landing within small countries like Israel, where 900 million birds pass through annually. Since Israel relies heavily upon aircraft for self-defense, the Israeli Air Force, thanks to Leshem and the center he founded, now employs special techniques to prevent run-ins between aircraft and birds, such as utilizing trained dogs and visual scarecrow images to scare the birds off. His project has led to a 76% accident reduction since 1984 and has saved Israel’s national security budget $860 million.

Leshem and his center also played a pivotal role in employing barn owls and kestrels as pest controls on farms. Evidently, owls, if given proper homes and decent conditions, are capable of controlling the damage caused by mice and other small mammals that routinely penetrate into farmer’s fields. This results in allowing farmers to be able to protect their fields without using pesticides that are known to be extremely harmful to the environment and to human health. Furthermore, the barn owl has rapidly increased production on farms where it is employed. Please watch this video to learn more!

According to Tel Aviv University, Leshem received this prize for his vigorous efforts over the last four decades to promote ornithology in Israel and for engaging in pivotal environmental research that has helped society at large. In fact, the owl project was so successful that even farmers within the Palestinian Authority and Jordan have utilized this rodent control technique, despite the fact that owls are considered unclean in Islam and Middle Eastern cultures generally frowns upon them as a bad omen.

Tel Aviv University also reported that the prize was presented at a special ceremony in Frankfurt’s Old Town Hall. The Frankfurt Town Hall, which dates back to the 15th century, was the very same spot where Leshem’s mother, a former resident of Frankfurt who fled Nazi Germany in 1993, was honored as the 1,000th Jewish guest of the mayor in 1988. According to the Times of Israel, the prize includes a 25,000 EURO grant to further environmental research. Previously, Leshem was awarded the “Lifetime Achievement Award for Environmental Protection” by Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry.

Reported by Rachel Avraham for United With Israel

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