OR Tambo International Airport and Airports Company South
Africa (Acsa) have introduced bird and wildlife specialists – consisting of teams
of skilled people and trained canines – who patrol the airport’s runways to keep
wildlife away from aircrafts and ensure safety.
Bird strikes cause expensive damage to planes and can even
be deadly. Melissa Hofmann, Senior Bird and Wildlife Officer, says that the work
they do is vital to ensure safety for the aircrafts and birds.
Dog Handler, Lionel Sewraj says that in the event of a bird
strike the teams need to enter the runway quickly and use dogs to retrieve the
birds, saving them time from getting out of vehicles and picking it up
themselves. Two breeds of dog are used to keep runways safe – Springer Spaniels
and Border Collies. In addition, there are also two types of pyro techniques
used by the airport to chase away the birds.
The team is also responsible for catching and releasing
snakes, other wild animals around the airport, as well as domestic pets that
escape from their enclosures at the airport and need to be reunited with their
owners. A team also monitors nocturnal animals such as rabbits, guinea fowls
and owls with special cameras.