Sunday, December 13, 2020

Why golden jackals have made home in Kolkata and Guwahati airports

Jamir Ali runs a tea-stall at Paschim Rajbati village, four kilometres from the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport on the outskirts of Kolkata. A canal behind his thatched-roof shop carries the waste dumped from the neighbouring households and meat shops fighting for space. Solid waste lies scattered close to the canal and street corners. The 50-year-old tea seller said that golden jackals (Canus aureus) start moving in packs once the evening sets in but have hardly been a cause of trouble to anybody.

They consume food waste that is discarded in the area, because of which, Ali claims, they “keep the area clean”.

“Garbage vans do not come regularly to collect the waste, and it lies around on the ground for days,” Ali said. “Jackals consumed the dumped food. They have never caused any trouble for us.”

At the airport a few kilometres away from his shop, the jackals do not have as accepting an audience as Ali. Senior officials at Kolkata airport said jackals are a challenge to aircraft operations. And the efforts by the forest department and NGOs to capture and rehabilitate them have so far been not very successful.

“There have been sightings of jackals at the Kolkata airport,” said Kaushik Bhattacharjee, director, the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport. “Their numbers cannot be ascertained. As they pose a serious threat to aircraft operations, we had sought help from the forest department for their rehabilitation.”

“The forest department had suggested trapping the jackals in cages with baits,” Bhattacharjee said. “Accordingly, we installed several cages, but very few could be trapped. We sought help from wildlife experts to rehabilitate the jackals present inside the operational area of Kolkata airport.”

Earlier this year India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation highlighted that in the light of Covid-19 restrictions leading to reduced human activity and lower aircraft movements at airfields, they may be an increase in bird/wildlife that forage, feed, and nest within or near aerodromes.

13/12/20 Gurvinder Singh/

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