Officials in Chile are turning to an unlikely ally - wild owls - as they try to fight a contagious disease that has already caused about 15 deaths, it seems.
Owls are the natural predators of the rats carrying the deadly hantavirus, the Santiago Times newspaper reports. Long-tailed pygmy rice rats transmit the virus to humans as they come into contact with campers in the forest, while foraging for bamboo.
But forest fires during Chile's summer months have forced the rats into urban areas, making more people sick. The disease does not affect the rats themselves.