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O.R. Tambo International Airport - Border collie project launch
Tuesday, July 16, 2002 | 00:00

O.R. Tambo International Airport has an unusual new staff member – a Border Collie. She has spent the past eight months on an intensive training programme in the Western Cape and is about to take up her new home at the airport's fire station.

Her name is Tweeny and she's the founding dog in the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) and Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) bird scaring programme, at O.R. Tambo International Airport.

The ACSA-EWT partnership came about in 1999 to reduce bird strikes at ACSA managed airports by implementing integrated environmental management techniques. Supported by South African Airways, SA Express, SA Airlink and pet food manufacturer, Eukanuba, Tweeny's arrival heralds an exciting advance in aviation safety.  Bird strikes pose a serious hazard to aircraft.It is estimated that bird strikes cost the international aviation industry in excess of $1.5 billion per annum. The scale of the problem has necessitated a dynamic form of airfield wildlife hazard management.
Two forms of airfield wildlife management have been employed at O.R. Tambo International Airport - proactive and reactive methods. Pro-active methods primarily involve habitat management techniques where the airfield environment is managed to make it as unattractive as possible for hazardous bird species.
Reactive measures include bird scaring tactics.The use of Border Collies on airfields is an initiative pioneered in the United States. The birds perceive the dog as a natural predator and soon learn the area is frequented and patrolled by the "predator". The birds subsequently seek safer foraging areas.

Border Collies are hard workers who thrive on a full day's activities. Strict obedience training is vital to secure a safe airfield environment and the highly intelligent nature of the breed makes them ideal candidates.

Following demonstrations in May 2001, with a visiting American expert, the ACSA-EWT partnership opted to make use of locally trained Border Collies in the programme. Expert sheepdog handlers, Pippa and Andrew Philip from Caledon in the Western Cape, were selected to train Tweeny and her Durban-based partner Mac.

Keeping the training within the country, not only allowed for considerable cost savings, but also ensured the development of local expertise in the field. Aircraft and airfield sensitisation was done at Cape Town International Airport.

A specially designed kennel facility has been constructed for Tweeny at the airport fire station. Pet food manufacturer, Eukanuba, will ensure Tweeny will be fed only the very best dog food with the kind sponsorship of their products.

Her handler, Sean Soobramoney, will care for her and work with her on all bird scaring activities. Tweeny will be strictly controlled at all times. Most of the operations will take place on the outer sections of the airfield when no aircraft movements are occurring or between landings and take-offs.

O.R. Tambo International Airport and the EWT are proud to introduce Tweeny as part of their bird control programme. The programme is an innovative and environmentally sensitive approach to improving aviation safety. It is also a solid example of business working hand-in-hand with environmental concerns to the benefit of all.

For further information contact:

Albert Froneman - Project Manager ACSA / EWT Strategic Partnership
Airport Wildlife Hazard Management Project
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Mobile: 082 901 4016
Telephone: 011 486 1102
Facsimile: 011 486 1506
E-Mail: acsabirds@ewt.org.za; albertf@airports.co.za 

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