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Managing wildlife at the airports

Morgan Hauptfleisch handing some of the rodents that venture onto the runway.

The Namibia Airports Company (NAC) and Dr Morgan Hauptfleisch of the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources Sciences School of Natural Resources and Spatial Sciences of the Polytechnic of Namibia have been working on the Wildlife and Aircraft Research Namibia Project (WARN-P) for the past 7 years.

The project started with an international requirement for developing plans to manage wildlife at NAC airports, in line with international legislation, where NAC requested assistance from the Southern African Institute for Environmental Assessment, for whom Hauptfleisch worked at the time.
The development of the plans led to many questions which needed further research to answer. NAC initially provided logistical support for Hauptfleisch to research this topic, and funded the activities of the WARN-P since it was initiated in 2009.
The NAC, as custodian of the airports, saw the need to look at underlying causes of collisions between aircraft and wildlife.
“Firstly we have a duty of safety and security towards all people at airports which include pilots and passengers and secondly we also wish to preserve nature as this is one of the main reasons tourists flock to our beautiful country,” said Mia Davids, Head of Corporate Communications at NAC.
Dr Hauptfleisch said that the research project was vital in that it contributed towards aviation safety, developed Namibian capacity to deal with the problem while at the same time also affording young scientists with the opportunity of being trained.
“The project research has thus far looked at birds, small mammals, vegetation and insects and spiders as well as light which attract wildlife to the runway. All of these are part of the prey species and ecosystem at airports and need to be taken into consideration,” he added.
Hauptfleisch said that between 2006 and 2010 there had been 60 bird collisions at Hosea Kutako airport with small mammals and arthropods as prey while Eros Airport recorded around 120 collisions.
“Currently NAC is using a variety of methods to get rid of birds and other attractants such as grass management. NAC has also already for example removed a dumpsite which attracted animals and get rid of termites at the airfields where possible,” he said. Meanwhile more research is being conducted on an ongoing basis and results will be shared as they become available and conclusive.

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