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For Immediate Release, March 1, 2008

Contact: Karla Kinstler, World Owl Hall of Fame and International Festival of Owls Coordinator, (507) 896-4668 or (507) 896-3436,

“Mozart” and Humans From Six Countries Land in Owl Hall of Fame

HOUSTON, Minn.— Mozart, a 34-year old Eurasian eagle owl from England who has touched the lives of over a million people, was inducted into the World Owl Hall of Fame on February 29, 2008, in Houston, Minnesota as part of the International Festival of Owls. Six people from as many countries on four continents found their place in the hall of fame alongside Mozart.

The World Owl Hall of Fame was hatched in 2006 to bring public recognition to the humans and owls who have dedicated a significant portion of their lives to making this world a better place for owls. The Champion of Owls Award is granted to a human and the Lady Gray’l Award, named for a great gray owl from Winnipeg, Canada, is bestowed upon an owl.

Mozart, recipient of the 2008 Lady Gray’l Award, has appeared in a video and several films on owls, as well as “worked” at the National Birds of Prey Centre for most of his life. He was the forerunner of trained owls in the United Kingdom and successfully tried out a new treatment for a yeast infection of the eye. He also patiently allowed scores of blind people to “see” an owl with their hands, which is not something many owls tolerate well.

Since he was raised by humans and considers himself to be one, he often courts his adoring public. Dr. Melissa Hughes of the College of Charleston in South Carolina says of Mozart during his few-years’ stay in the United States, “My students were always quite pleased when he favored them with an offer of a dead rat.”

The winner of the prestigious Champion of Owls Award was coincidentally the International Festival of Owls’ keynote speaker, Dr. C. Stuart Houston from Saskatoon. Houston has banded more than 10,000 owls of 11 species since 1943, published 51 papers on owls, written reviews for six owl books, and inspired multiple generations of ornithologists, despite being a medical doctor himself.

“He always involved other people in his work, from farm lads to grown people,” says Dr. Robert Nero of Winnipeg, a Champion of Owls award winner himself and keeper of Lady Gray’l during her lifetime. “[His wife] Mary Houston is right up there with Stuart. They are a team.”

Houston ’s Champion of Owls Award will join a long list of other awards on his curriculum vitae, including awards from the American Ornithologists’ Union, Canadian Nature Federation, Raptor Research Foundation, and being named an Officer of the Order of Canada, among others.

Due to the strong suite of nominations for the Champion of Owls Award, the Global Owl Project is sponsoring a new Special Achievement Award for humans within the hall of fame for the first time this year. “Developing a Special Achievement Award category was not only necessary, it was easy. Just look what the five 2008 award winners have done,” comments David H. Johnson, Director of the Global Owl Project.

Special Achievement Awards were presented to the following individuals:

  • Richard Clark, Ph.D. (USA) served as the senior advisor for the Working Bibliography of Owls of the World, which compiled 6,590 scientific citations and required 11 staff years of effort. He also served as editor of the 1987 Northern Forest Owl Symposium proceedings and has published numerous scientific papers on owls.
  • Johan de Jong (The Netherlands) has led the Dutch Barn Owl Working Group since its inception in 1986. The group has successfully restored the country’s Barn Owl population, with de Jong personally banding more than 10,000 owls. He also chaired the World Owl Conference planning committee in 2007 and created the annual Dutch National Owl Day.
  • Paul Muriithi Kibuthu (Kenya) grew up in a culture that stoned owls to death whenever they were seen, but overcame those beliefs by personally observing owls. He now guides tourists to Mackinder’s eagle owls, sharing his guiding income with local farmers who own the property surrounding the owl territories, thus changing local attitudes toward owls to a positive one. He also conducts research on the Mackinder’s eagle owl.
  • Deane Lewis (Australia) found a shortage of owl information on the internet in 1997 when he was researching them for an enormous tattoo to go on his back. He went on to develop, the world’s mecca of owl information, visited by over 3,000 people from school children to biologists every day.
  • Jemima Parry-Jones MBE (England) has published two books and a video on her pioneering techniques for training and care of captive owls and has reached over a million people with her education efforts (which include Mozart, the Lady Gray’l Award winner.) She also helped to develop and enforce captive-care regulations in England.

The 2008 World Owl Hall of Fame is sponsored by the World Owl Trust, Global Owl Project, Center for Biological Diversity, Owl Research Institute, Raptor Education Group, Inc., Hancock House Publishers, Gray Owl Fund, and


Contact information for award winners:

Richard J. Clark, Ph.D., Prescott, Arizona, U.S.
(928) 776-0589,

Johan de Jong, Ureterp, Friesland, The Netherlands

Dr. C. Stuart, Houston Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
(306) 244-0742,

Jemima Parry-Jones/Mozart the Eurasian Eagle Owl, Eardisland, Herefordshire, England
01544 388 777,

Paul Muriithi, Kibuthu Mweiga, Kenya
254-720-831719 (mornings & evening cell phone coverage only) (sporadic checks, since there’s no electricity in his village)

Deane Lewis, Mayborough, Queensland, Australia

Director of the Global Owl Project, judge and sponsor:
David H. Johnson, Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.
(202) 360-0313

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