Belfast Telegraph

Goose eggs destroyed to avoid birds flying into engines at Belfast City Airport

Almost 1,800 Greylag goose eggs have been destroyed at Belfast's Victoria Park to prevent birds from flying into engines of nearby aeroplanes.

Victoria Park is near to the George Best Belfast City Aiirport, where planes fly directly overhead.

Belfast City Airport said it has a legal obligation to control the number of greylag geese for safety reasons.

The data was obtained by the BBC in a freedom of information request to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

The goose eggs are destroyed through a process known as egg-pricking. This process involves pricking the shell and injecting it with oil - this prevents the embryo from developing into a chick and hatching.

The parent geese then proceed to sit on the eggs and therefore will not lay any more.

If a bird flies into a plane engine, it could damage the mechanics and a few planes have been brought down as a result.

Belfast City Airport have said this method is the most inhumane way to manage the population of geese, adding that no adult geese had been harmed during this process.

Green Party councillor Georgina Milne, who represents the Victoria Park district, said different methods should be introduced.

She said: "We need to find more humane solutions which are also cost effective.

"It would be better if we tried to modify the environment.

"Geese like very flat grass so if you start to plant spiky grass it's not hospitable for them."

Ms Milne added: "More experimentally in America, they are starting to use drones to try and scare the geese away.

"It's about balancing the very real health and safety risk with animal welfare and I really think that if we try to prevent geese from landing here, rather than destroying their eggs, it will be much better.

"It's very important that people who use the park know that this is going on so that they can voice their opinions on it."

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency revealed that since 2002, 1,775 greylag goose eggs had been oiled and pricked.

The numbers involved vary each year, ranging from fewer than 50 to more than 250.

In recent years, an average of 100 eggs have been pricked.

A spokesman for the airport said: "In order to control the feral geese population in Victoria Park, the oiling and pricking of eggs is undertaken by a biologist under licence from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and with the permission of Belfast City Council.

"The airport has a legal obligation to reduce the number of hazardous wildlife in the vicinity of the airport and does this through consultation with local authorities and wildlife experts.

"Earlier this year, Belfast City Airport was named Northern Ireland's Responsible Company of the Year by Business in the Community and, like all airports, is committed to managing its operations in an environmentally sensitive manner whilst ensuring air safety."

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