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Predators Monitoring Budapest's Ferihegy Airport | Dávid Harangozó

Predators Monitoring Budapest's Ferihegy Airport

Falconry is the oldest field sport known to mankind, dating back to some 4,000 years. But when airplanes dominate the air, it seems falcons are much more needed then ever.

Airports worldwide are facing a growing threat, not only by terrorists, but most likely by birds. Andras Gyõrffy-Villám, Founder and Director of Falcon Guard Ltd, says falcons are the best weapons against the bothersome and harmful bird population.

“Our unique, ecologically and environmentally-friendly technology is designed to aid professional falconers for the purpose of scaring away and protecting against harmful bird migration over-flights. A bird contra airplane accident is not always catastrophic, but it often results in serious equipment damage on a direct hit. Even a small bird can cost millions to repair.” he explains. Budapest’s Ferihegy International Airport uses a complex method that involves a combination of falcons, dogs, gas-carbide and other electronic deterrence methods to insure minimal loss liabilities resulting to air traffic. “Our services are very much desired at the military and also some civilian airports within Hungary,” he continues, adding that falcons, often called ‘sharks of the sky’ can provide the protection of the Gripen airplanes in Hungary. According to the director, this ’Nature to the rescue’ approach also has great benefits for those who want to reduce property and profit loss in orchards, vineyards and fisheries.

Ecological control

Gyõrffy-Villám, who is originally an Agrarian Engineer and also a University Lecturer, Parliamentary Adviser on Agricultural Matters and an acknowledged expert practitioner as an Equestrian and Falconer for over 40 years, has been working on this technology for the last 10 years. “It’s something you never quite finish, though,” he adds, explaining that the technology, when adopted by another country, has to be adjusted and fine tuned right on the spot. He says that Falcon Guard Ltd. is to expand its technology in the neighboring countries as well. “We already signed an agreement with the Burgenland Wine Growers Association, for their grape protection program for the 2010 harvest season. Beyond this, we received a direct inquiry from Werner Falb Meixner, Regional Minister for Agriculture and Nature Conservation of Burgenland, Austria, to start negotiations for a long term comprehensive Nature/ Bird-Based protection plan on a nationwide basis, to include orchards as well as airports and fisheries.”

The Falcon Guard bird based know-how and technology is integrated with the full range of existing, electronic acoustic and other devises. “The Falcon Guard Training and Research Center allowed us to gear-up for the anticipated need to increase our bird-stock, both in terms of breeding pairs as well as working birds, to service not just the European region, but to serve globally,” Gyõrffy-Villám adds. “Parallel to this, we started to train candidates from the region as well as overseas, in our new training center this year. We also insured a top-notch working partnership with the Pannon University at Keszthely –Georgicon Faculty for Agrarian Research, to provide university-level courses (toward BSc, BA, and MSc, MA) within the Falcon Guard Curriculum.” According to Gyõrffy-Villám, Falcon Guard services represent a great opportunity for knowledge transfer, and technology-based business to be rolled out regionally and indeed to be transplanted to other areas in the world, with significant revenue potential, as well as job creation, with an eco- friendly and unique knowledge and technology-based methodology.

World Heritage

Gyõrffy Villám himself owns 12 falcons and is a member of the Hungarian Falconer’s Association. He reveals that the great effort to register Hungarian falconry with the UNESCO as a form of cultural heritage seems to succeed by 2010. “Falconry is part of Hungary’s culture and heritage since we have arrived to the Carpathian Basin, and it has to be preserved and protected,” he says. There is plenty of data to prove how extensive falconry activity was during the reign of the Árpád dynasty, but it reached its real heyday in the 16th century. It was a popular pastime activity both among noblemen and noble ladies. There was no significant manor house without trained falcons or sparrow-hawks. Each noble household had its own paid fowler. The Hungarian falcons soon gained great reputation in all Europe. Hungarian falcons and sparrow-hawks were known across the continent. Monarchs, princes and Turkish noblemen kept looking for the opportunity to obtain a Hungarian hunting bird.

Trading with falcons was a significant part of medieval commerce and involved entire families. Whole villages specialized in catching, training and trading of falcons and falconry-related handicraft, hand manufacturing of hoods, gloves, satchels, leg straps was practiced to a high artistic level. Hungary has been famous from medieval times to the present day for highly artistically decorated equipment and falconers are still making these items in an almost unchanged form. “Although, Gyõrffy-Villám points out there can’t be more than 8 manufacturers dealing with this kind of business currently in the country to serve those 130 registered Hungarian falconers. According to him, by passing a special falconry test, anyone could become a falconer, and he encourages everyone. “Falconry was considered to be a pastime of the aristocracy, so it was persecuted for over a hundred years,” he explains. “So it’s high time the world recognizes Hungarian falconers, and falcon-based defence systems resulting in job creation in a brand new business sector.

Réka Alíz Francisck

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