This Emirati woman protects Dubai Airport from birds
Al Saffar's work, takes her far beyond the confines of DXB.
Emirati Reem Al Saffar has a unique and little-known - but extremely vital - job: Protecting the Dubai International Airport (DXB) from birds.
As senior officer - compliance and safeguarding at Dubai Airports - Al Saffar serves as DXB's 'Bird Coordinator'. "Bird control is a necessity for all airports around the world," Al Saffar explained. "It is estimated the aviation industry spends a minimum of $1.2 billion per year on bird strike damages and delays."
To ward off the birds, a dedicated airside controller undertakes 24-hour on-airfield bird and wildlife patrols, monitoring and recording the number and species of birds, studying their habitat and reporting unwanted vegetation. "They also carry out bird dispersal activities using different techniques which ensure that birds do not get accustomed to a single method of dispersal, such as digital bird dispersal equipment, arm waving, clapping, or loud noises," Al Saffar added. "The bird controller will have a special bird control vehicle which has binoculars, a bird identification guidebook, digital bird scaring device, airport bird map, and a bird log."
Al Saffar's work, however, takes her far beyond the confines of DXB. As part of the job, off-airfield bird inspections are carried out by her team, which includes herself and two airside compliance officers.
"The inspections are carried out monthly in different locations that are within 13km radius, such as Park Hyatt golf course, Ras Al Khor nature reserve and Creek Park, among other areas," she said. "We monitor and record the numbers, species, and behaviour of birds including the flight lines. The off-airfield bird assessment figures are used to compare migration periods and help identify any potential gathering of large flocks."
Al Saffar noted that although there are no native bird species in the UAE, her work is particularly busy during migration periods.
"The main migratory periods are November to March when many different species begin to arrive in the area, and April to May, when the birds migrate north once again for the summer," she said.
"The bird population is increasing year by year due to the increase in the number of attractions and developments in the country such as bird and wildlife sanctuaries," she added. "However, compared to airports in Europe, the bird population in the UAE is low."
The most effective way of dealing with birds "includes 24/7 bird and wildlife patrolling, removing birds and wildlife, removing nests and undertaking Bird Strike Avoidance Awareness campaigns for our stakeholders," she said.
"We are also in the process of introducing bird scaring pyrotechnics which are used in many international airports."
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