Buzz, a 22-month border collie dog, will soon join his senior bird patrol members at King Shaka International Airport (KSIA) near Durban. Not for long though as Mac and Tweeny, the original two dogs in the programme, are soon to be retired, leaving 6-year old Don and newcomer Buzz to do the work on the airfield.
The dogs set up home at KSIA when the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT's) Airport Wildlife Programme in collaboration with Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) invested in the Border Collie program to reduce aircraft collisions with birds. Although these are not frequent happenings, they are costly and can have serious consequences when they do occur. It is estimated that bird strikes with aircraft cost the international aviation industry in excess of US$1.5 billion per annum through damage to aircraft components, indirect costs such as flight delays and passenger reimbursements.
Colin Naidoo, communications and brand manager at KSIA said, "We believe that our investment with the Border Collie program goes a long way to assist us to control bird and wildlife and contributes towards the avoidance of aircraft incidents at our airports. The relationship between ACSA and EWT strives to reduce bird strikes at ACSA managed airports by implementing integrated environmental management techniques through their environmentally responsible Bird and Wildlife Control Programme. As part of their commitment, ACSA, KSIA, initially Durban International Airport, was the first airport to establish a dedicated unit at the airport. The program at KSIA that is used to control bird and wildlife hazards in accordance with the Wildlife Management Plan refers to a variety of techniques such as the swallow detection radar, use of pyrotechnics, lasers and bird control dogs."
Marius van Rooyen, senior bird and wildlife controller at KSIA mentioned, "The environmentally-responsible Bird and Wildlife Control Programme utilises a number of ethical and environmentally friendly techniques to minimise the presence and abundance of birds and wildlife on the airfield. One of the most effective techniques for controlling bird numbers is the use of bird control dogs such as Border Collies. The birds perceive the dogs as predators and move off to safer grounds beyond the perimeter of the airfield."
Border Collies are hard workers. They are also very intelligent animals and can be trained to strict levels of obedience, which is a prerequisite for an error free airfield environment.
Buzz is the newest member of the Bird Control Dog team at KSIA. He has been in training on a game farm near Alldays in the Limpopo where he has learnt to chase a variety of birds whilst at all times keeping an ear out for commands from his trainer Rox Brummer. His handler, Indhrasen "Dudes" Govender, has visited him several times and the two have bonded well and are set to excel as a team on the airfield.