Monitor lizards, jackals, birds being chased off Delhi airport runway (Lead)

June 17th, 2008 - 8:11 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 17 (IANS) Authorities here launched an operation Tuesday to capture large monitor lizards, jackals and birds that strayed from nearby wastelands and took refuge on a runway at the Indira Gandhi International Airport the day before and disrupted flights for over an hour. The captured animals will be moved to a wildlife sanctuary, authorities said. Authorities sought the help of NGO Wildlife SOS to help in the relocation.

“We could capture five monitor lizards from the airport. They are being rehabilitated to the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary,” said Wildlife SOS co-founder Kartick Satyanarayan. “No other animal was caught yesterday (Monday).”

Satyanaryan told IANS that his organisation’s team was at the airport and was having the wild grass and debris from the airport perimeter removed from the huge expanse of land, which attract these animals, especially when there is heavy rain.

The operations on the secondary runway were stopped for over an hour Monday when a pilot spotted some monitor lizards, some more than a foot long, straying onto it. Only the main runway was used, as a result of which some 20-25 flights were delayed, officials said.

The Wildlife SOS co-founder said finding such wild animals inside the airport premises was not unique to Delhi. “Many airports across the world face such a problem.”

“We are working out a strategy to minimise the threat it poses to air passengers and aircraft. There are small openings around the airport fencing. These have to be closed,” he added.

“During monsoon and heavy rains birds and animals tend to come out of their shelters,” said Arun Arora, spokesman for the Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL), which manages the terminal.

“We have a dedicated professional team to control the bird and animal activity to enhance operational safety,” he added.

According to Wildlife SOS activists, six jackals, two feral cats and 10 stray dogs were captured from the airport area in December 2006. The jackals were put under quarantine, treated by a veterinarian and then released.

The organisation last year had also helped in relocating 52 blue bulls from the airport to the nearby Asola wildlife sanctuary.

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