World of pigs

News last update:Oct 22, 2021

Pigs help to keep the airport safe from birds

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in the Netherlands has started a trial to figure out whether or not pigs can be of any help to keep birds at bay. Birds can be a nuisance for air traffic as collisions could damage plane engines.

A group of 20 pigs will stay at a stretch of land of 2 ha between 2 Schiphol runways, where recently sugar beet were harvested. The harvest remains are usually interesting for birds, predominantly geese and pigeons. Those harvest remains, however, can also be on the menu for pigs.

Presence of very curious pigs could deter the birds. - Photo: Schiphol
Presence of very curious pigs could deter the birds. - Photo: Schiphol

The trial is being carried out by the Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, Buitengewone Varkens and RVR Loonbedrijf. During the trial the bird activity will be compared between the areas having pigs and another reference stretch without porcine inhabitants. The success rate will be determined using a special “bird radar,” which normally maps where birds abound in the wider Schiphol area, as well as visual observations.

The presence of “extremely curious” pigs could chase birds away, Stan Gloudemans of the company Buitengewone Varkens, responsible for the animals, told Dutch daily newspaperDe Volkskrant. “In case pigs see a goose, they will approach them for inspection purposes. That is how they chase them away.” Gloudemans said that the pigs will soon get used to the plane roar. “Even though in the beginning one could see them look up: what’s that noise?”

Keeping air traffic safety optimal

In a press release, the airport explained that it has been working consistently to keep air traffic safety as optimal as possible to keep birds at a distance. At the airport, about 20 bird controllers are observing bird activity 24 hours/day to chase them away from the runways. They use various types of technologies, e.g. different sounds and use of laser beams. In addition, the areas around the airport are being made as unattractive as possible for birds, e.g. by applying special types of grass.

Birds have been forming a problem fort he airport for many years. A crash with smaller birds is not so much of a problem, but it could in theory lead to trouble when larger birds, like geese, swans or herons end up in a plane engine. In 2020, there were 6.9 bird striks per 10,000 flight movements (arrival or departure). For the birds it is always lethal.