Pop! Pop! Bang! Bang! Koo-Koo! Kaw Kaw! That's the new auditory trajectory of Israel's ammunition crates, the result of a new joint project between environmentalists and Israel Military Industries (IMI). The project turns the old ammunition crates into nesting boxes for owls and kestrels, which then feast on the rodents that plague farmers' crops. "The problem is that wood is very expensive in Israel. Each box cost the farmer who put it up about NIS 700 with wood imported from China. We turned to Israel Military Industries and they offered us as many as we wanted," Motti Charter, scientific coordinator of the project, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. Charter is affiliated with Tel Aviv University, which runs the project in coordination with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) and the Agriculture and Environmental Protection ministries. IMI has given them over 500 boxes during the past year. The nesting project started in 1983 with 12 boxes and now there are 2,000 such boxes all over the country, Charter said. "The idea is to encourage farmers to rely on owls and falcons to get rid of the rodents instead of rodenticides, which are harmful to humans and the environment," he said. Israel has a large population of predatory birds, which has made the project more successful in Israel than in other countries that have tried it, he added. The army angle came about because of a personal connection of Charter's. "My best friend is in the navy and he went to IMI to ask for just a few," and from there the endeavor spiraled upward, he said. Now the boxes are made from recycled wood as well, another environmental plus for the project, Charter noted. "It's nice to see something that once was used for war, is now being used for something completely different," Charter mused. He added that he did not know of any other military in the world that had been brought into such an environmental activity. "We've also expanded the project into the Arab sector recently," he said. "Sameh Darawshi, an Israeli Arab that works for SPNI lectures in Arabic to the Israeli Arab farmers about the benefits of the barn owls and kestrels. "Even in Israel, which has extensive laws concerning the use of pesticides, meaningful enforcement and regulation is sorely lacking," he continued. "Hunting and poisoning are of course significant causes of raptor population declines throughout the world, but are especially apparent in the Middle East. "Illegal hunting of birds of prey is widespread in this region, especially the Arab sector because owls are considered 'bad omens' by many Muslims. Once the Arab farmers see the benefits of the owls, instead of killing them they not only protect them, but want more nest boxes," he said.