Although the Pemba scops-owl had been thought of as common and widespread, a survey undertaken in 2004 found this to be incorrect, and discovered that it was only common in native forest, a habitat that makes up less than two percent of the island. The Pemba scops-owl was found to occur mainly in two tiny patches of natural forest, Ngezi Forest and Msitu Mkuu (3), and this restricted distribution makes it vulnerable to the effects of continued forest degradation and clearance for agriculture (2). Native forest is threatened by exploitation for building materials, fuelwood, and in some areas, conversion to rubber plantations and infrastructure development (6).
Clove plantations, where the Pemba scops-owl occurs at lower densities, are also now a threatened habitat. A global collapse in clove prices resulted in many farmers clearing clove plantations in order to plant more lucrative crops such as rice and cassava, creating an open farmland habitat entirely unsuitable for the scops-owl (3) (6). In addition, this species’ association with witchcraft makes persecution by humans a distinct possibility (2) (5).