The newly opened Chipi Airport in Sindhudurg has an unexpected problem — 25 to 30 golden jackals have been regularly straying on to the runway.
Unable to keep them away, local forest office and airport authorities are seeking permission to capture and translocate the animals to a new habitat.
At least three packs of 25 to 30 golden jackals have been spotted inside the airport perimeter. The landing of a flight from Mumbai had to be delayed when the animals were spotted on the runway.
Pilots have been reporting jackals on or near the runway of the airport, which runs three daily flights to and from Mumbai.
“The area is huge, with wall fencing around its 275-acre premises. It, however, has heavy grasslands in the surroundings. This area is not a recorded forest land, but now these jackals have also been sighted on the runway,” said Ben Clement, chief conservator of forests (territorial).
Local residents have alerted authorities about gaps in the fencing of the airport.
Golden jackals (Canus aureus) are protected under Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act. They are omnivores that eat fruits, birds, insects, fish and small mammals. Hunting and trade of jackals is a punishable offence.
“These are small animals, thus tranquilising would be risky. Instead, we are in the process of seeking permission to trap these animals to release them into the grassland areas within the district,” said Clement.
The grassland cover around the airport makes it conducive for jackals. Golden jackals live in grasslands, scrublands, open/barren lands and ravines.
The forest department has also suggested that the airport authorities periodically clear shrub and grass that attract the jackals.
Across the country, golden jackals are found in most protected areas, semi-urban and rural landscapes. Due to their tolerance of dry habitats and omnivorous diet, they can live in a wide variety of habitats. They often venture into human habitations at night to feed at garbage dumps or scavenge on livestock carcasses.
A similar issue has been recorded near the Kolkata and Assam airports. Jackals straying on to the Kolkata airport runway and taxi track is a major problem during the rain, when their burrows get flooded, forcing them out.