The Luis Munoz Marin International Airport is one the busiest airports in Puerto Rico, allowing passengers to travel from the mainland USA to the Caribbean. One of the biggest challenges overseeing the airport is the wildlife management aspect. Since the airport is located near precious habitat for wildlife, it is not uncommon to see birds, iguanas, Caiman alligators, and even cats and dogs roaming the surrounding airport. Aerostar has developed a task force that collaborates with the USDA and FAA to prevent bird strikes or any accident involving an aircraft and wildlife and mitigates the airport’s wildlife. Environmental Supervisor Dannaly Cruz Galarza lead the group on to the runways and taxiways to see firsthand the type of wildlife observed around the airport on a typical day. On just a short 5-minute drive, we were able to observe Great and Cattle Egrets, Herons, Red-tailed Hawks, and iguanas that seemed the size of a small dog. These types of wildlife all pose a risk to aircraft in the area. During our tour, we also met Rafael Rios, Airport Safety Coordinator. Mr. Rios demonstrated the equipment they use to deter wildlife, including a portable laser and gun used to deter birds. The gun shoots pyrotechnics that make thunderous noises which only deters the birds from the runways but does not physically harm them. Since iguanas are highly invasive and can reproduce at a high-speed rate, they are one of the biggest challenges regarding wildlife management, and more fatal tactics are taken.
Ms. Galarza also introduced the group to the Scarecrow bird tab system, a state-of-the-art tablet that keeps track of live birds surrounding the airport. The tablet connects to a speaker system in a vehicle that plays deafening distressing bird calls deterring birds from the runways. Depending on the type of bird, the bird calls can be changed using the tablet. The scarecrow tablet, combined with pyrotechnics, has proven to be very effective.