WATCH: Meet the dogs at OR Tambo Airport that keep runways safe

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OR Tambo International Airport and Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) have introduced bird and wildlife specialists – consisting of teams of skilled people and trained canines – who patrol the airport’s runways to keep wildlife away from aircraft and ensure safety.

Bird strikes cause expensive damage to planes and can even be deadly. Melissa Hofmann, Senior Bird and Wildlife Officer, says that the work they do is vital to ensure safety for the planes and birds.

Dog Handler, Lionel Sewraj says that in the event of a bird strike the teams need to enter the runway quickly and use dogs to retrieve the birds, saving them time from getting out of vehicles and picking it up themselves. Two breeds of dog are used to keep runways safe – Springer Spaniels and Border Collies. In addition, there are also two types of pyro techniques used by the airport to chase away the birds.

The team is also responsible for catching and releasing snakes, other wild animals around the airport, as well as domestic pets that escape from their enclosures at the airport and need to be reunited with their owners. A team also monitors nocturnal animals such as rabbits, guinea fowls and owls with special cameras.