Sunday, March 30, 2008

Headed for BIA? Watch out for snakes

Headed for BIA? Watch out for snakes
Amit S Upadhye | TNN

Bangalore: The dog-hit at HAL Airport should serve as a wake-up call for Bangalore International Airport Limited, as the surroundings of Devanahalli, where the new airport is situated, are home to many dangerous animals and reptiles.
An environment assessment report on flora and fauna of Devanahalli, prepared by the Indian Institute of Science in mid-2007, says jackals, pangolins, snakes, monitor lizards, jungle cats, mongooses and a variety of avi-fauna live in and around Devanahalli. The report on reptiles of Devanahalli has recorded 21 snake species in and around the Bengaluru International Airport (BIA).
“Construction labourers who worked at the new airport have identified different species of snakes around BIA. We showed them photos of snakes for identification. The area was also thoroughly surveyed before the report was drafted,’’ reptile conservationist Anees Mohammad, who was in charge of the reptile section of the report, told the Sunday Times of India.
The report has identified many points in the BIA where wildlife could sneak in or cross the runway.
“We have to accept that snakes cannot be completely taken away from their habitat. But their numbers can be reduced by creating an unfriendly environment. BIAL must look at areas like the cargo section and runway stretch. A wall running parallel to the runway is a possible point for entry of snakes. The report had suggestions on reptile management and creating snake hideouts,’’ Anees added.
Though the BIA is taking action to prevent wildlife from sneaking on to the runway or airport premises, Devanahalli’s surroundings harbour a large number of pangolins, which cannot be stopped by walls or barriers.
“Pangolins can dig their way through the ground and pop up anywhere inside the airport. Jackals, too, are found around Devanahalli.’’ said Sharath Babu, BBMP environmental adviser, adding that the international airport has no wildlife specialist to tackle such issues.
Snakes in Jakkur too
Three years ago, two spectacled cobras were rescued from aircraft parked at Jakkur airfield on Bellary Road.
One of the cobras was found in the wheel of a four-seater aircraft, while the other was caught inside a helicopter.
Why do snakes come on to the runway?
There is little human activity on runways. Snakes, who avoid humans and other animals, crawl on to runways when attacked by predators.
Catch a snake and pocket Rs 50!
Apart from gunmen, who often scare away kites flying over the HAL Airport runway, two specialist snake-catchers are on duty alongside the runway and at areas vulnerable to snakes. They are paid Rs 50 for every snake caught. Reptile biologists say snakes rescued at the HAL Airport are not translocated elsewhere.
A suggestion on reptile management
The BIA could deploy trained sniffer dogs to identify reptile movement in the airport. Many airports in Western countries have adopted such dogs to keep a check on snakes, said Anees Mohammad.


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