Written by Staff Writer
This content was published on November 13, 2015 9:34 AM Nov 13, 2015 – 09:34
Will the lives of birds be saved by pigs? Ask the crew at La Defense Airport, near Paris, who have put together a piggy-back pig project to reduce the number of strikes on flight paths.
A pig is attached to a large balloon that spans the length of the runway, which gives the piglet a steady perch. The scientists hope to cover the runway with about 100 pigs, each with a minute-long flight of its own.
This month, a pig on an electronic wire surveillance camera leads the scientists in line by its tail. This behavior can be observed by those on the ground.
“Pigs are relatively robust compared to other mammals and are very protective of their territory. It is therefore very effective to experiment with a pig, which can stay close to the human operator for a long time,” said project leader Serge Sander of the Center of Urban Agriculture Research and Education, in Quenza, near Grenoble, France.
“In particular, we can use the feed provided to them, which will certainly be a solution to reduce the impact on the visual environment,” said Sander.
Farm pigs in care
With the pig project the airport is placing two pigs in an underdeveloped location — not far from the destination.
The airport is working to further promote the importance of urban agriculture in the context of the fight against climate change.
“Urban agriculture is part of the strategy to adjust the urban centers to the challenges of climate change,” said Sander.
“We need to be skeptical about the solutions proposed in the past and adapt them to the new reality, in a more efficient and sustainable way. “
The airport has so far reduced the ecological footprint of its operations by more than 1.8 million tonnes a year, by considering measures such as switching to renewable energies and the use of biogas to heat the plant, according to Sander.
Sander works with farmers, helping them manage their livestock. Using pigs on flights is the logical extension of his ideas.
“It is positive to see that the airport has realized how important it is to promote urban agriculture to fulfill the objectives of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and conserve water,” he said.
Could pigs also be used to reduce aircraft noise, which has been raising ire at the airport during landing and take-off days?
It is clear to the experts that pigs have several advantages over many types of livestock.
For a start, pigs usually react faster to smells. They use their brains faster and therefore are more intelligent.
They don’t have as many social interests to focus on as other animals, which could benefit passengers and airline pilots.
“A pilot has to carry 100 kilograms of baggage on board. But what he often misses is seeing a pig grazing in the farm grounds and feel relieved by hearing the rumble of the engine. The smell of the pig goes back to him,” Sander said.
“So can a pig replace a dog or a horse to protect a sensitive infrastructure like a runway?”