Joe the Black Labrador has joined a growing list of deterrents used by airports to help reduce bird strikes.
As reported on ABC’s Catalyst program last week, Gold Coast Airport has been using Joe—Australia’s first purpose-trained bird-strike dog—since 2011 to provide a predatory influence on the fields of the airport and has been trained not to harm the birds, but disperse them.
Joe and his handler, wildlife biologist Martin Ziviani, have undergone extensive training by an internationally-certified specialist dog trainer to help the pair work safely and effectively around the airport.
The training allows Joe to operate under three levels of control—voice control, whistle control and electric collar. These controls allow Joe to work at different distances, with ambient airport noise and activity and without harming the bird.
‘Birds see dogs as natural predators’, says Phil Shaw, Managing Director of Avisure, ‘…which mean birds will be less likely to settle in areas patrolled by Joe. Joe’s presence will encourage birds to find alternative places to nest and feed and will be less likely to come into harms way and cause damage to aircraft.’
So far the statistics suggest that Joe should be given two paws up, as there’s been a noticeable decline in the bird strikes involving the species that he’s been trained to chase.
‘The data is pretty clear,’ says Shaw. ‘You know, you can see that the types of birds he would be influencing, their numbers of strikes have decreased as well.’
For Ziviani, the energetic pooch represents another dispersal tool, and when it comes to bird strikes, having a variety of methods is the key.
‘It’s to stop habituation,’ says Ziviani. ‘We’ve got lots of different sorts of birds, and you don’t want those birds getting used to any one type of tool, so you need to constantly mix it up.’
As Flight Safety Australia reported back in March, even the dulcet tones of Tina Turner have been blared around a British aerodrome in an effort to deter birds from nesting near by.
Wildlife-related incidents accounted for 23 per cent of all non-serious incidents for civilian air transport between 2002 and 2011. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau reports that bird strikes have doubled over the last decade, driven by an increase in high-capacity aircraft movements, along with improved strike reporting, increasing urbanisation and faster, quieter aircraft.
Worldwide, bird strikes alone cost the aviation industry US$1.2 billion each year and can have a devastating effect on aircraft, as the below video graphically demonstrates.