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Tribute to “father of African airport wildlife management”

Posted 4 February 2021 · Add Comment

The African aviation industry lost a great safety champion this week when George Amutete, the leading airport wildlife management expert in Africa, sadly died, reports the AviAssist Foundation.

He was in charge of the airport wildlife management section of one of the biggest airport operators in Africa, the Kenya Airports Authority.

Airport wildlife risks feature high on the list of safety management in Africa, certainly also for aviation operators. Wildlife strikes often don’t have catastrophic consequences but are expensive to their operations, not least because often they remain below the insurance threshold. This means that operators may have to pay the repair bills themselves. 

This means there is a very important safety component but there is also an economic component. That justifies a concerted action to reduce risks from wildlife. This does not just apply to wildlife at the airport but also in a 13 km circle around the airport. That require co-operation also with city councils in relation to for example the location of slaughterhouses that often serve as bird attractants.

“George had a profound influence on African airport wildlife management”, AviAssist Foundation director Tom Kok explains.

AviAssist has been working with Amutete on airport wildlife management issues since 2009. “He was key in boosting the understanding in the region of not just scaring birds and other wildlife away or killing them but working hard on making the airport less interesting to wildlife as a place to live and feed – of managing their habitat. Just like we work on the human factor for aviation safety to try and influence the behaviour of people towards safer behaviour, George was at the forefront of boosting the understanding of the behaviour of wildlife as a crucial step in successful airport wildlife management.

“Amutete serves as a source of inspiration for fellow and future airport wildlife management experts”, Kenneth Kaunda International Airport manager Harriet Nakazwe said . Nakazwe joined Amutete in a 2009 AviAssist course at Kilimanjaro International Airport and stayed in touch with him since.
“His influence on the profession is felt from Mombasa to Entebbe to Lusaka and beyond, also through his work in the African chapter of the World Birstrike Association (WBA)”

“Too often, airport wildlife management in our region is seen as only a side job for airport firefighters”, Kok said. “Airport firefighters can and often will play a crucial role in managing wildlife at airports, also because of the proximity of their work station on airside. But it is crucial for those firefighters to be trained on and understand the behaviour of wildlife.
“George was advocating for airports to deploy the expertise of biologists and environmental specialist to support such frontline staff. This does not always mean that every airport can employ a biologist but engaging the services of those experts on a contract basis, pool with other airports to deploy the services of a wildlife specialist among them or work with biology and biodiversity colleges in African universities can all be great ways to reduce airport wildlife risks”.



“George had great research abilities that have contributed immensely to the region’s safety”, leading airport wildlife management expert Gloria Kirabo from Uganda points out. “As someone who worked with the National Museums of Kenya which is for conservation of nature, George was well equipped to handle aviation wildlife management in a professional and environmentally credible manner. He somehow seemed to have knowledge about the different species' behaviour we struggle with in the region. George was very keen to push research among his colleagues around Africa in order to start collecting and analysing such data. The application of risk management to airport wildlife management is crucial in these days of Safety Management Systems. Capturing comprehensive data daily can generate detailed reports of seasonal trends and daily patterns, enabling effective management of potentially dangerous situations. George supported that work also with many articles in leading biodiversity and ecology magazines. I don't know whether he had completed his phD but I hope we can get access to the wealth of research he gave his time too. We will surely miss him”.

“George participated and presented at many International Bird Strike Committee and WBA conferences and chaired the WBA Africa region”, commented Albert de Hoon from the WBA. “We wish his family and friends strength during this difficult time”.

George will be remembered as a very kind, soft spoken and dedicated professional.

George Amutete, (top) at work among his beloved wildlife and above sharing wisdom. (IMAGES: AviAssist Foundation) 


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