China’s air force has obtained a new “secret weapon” to guard an airbase in the north of the country against attack: macaques.
Rather than being charged with the unsuitable task of defending against human intruders however, the small monkeys have been expertly trained to help protect soldiers against a more probably cause of injury: birds.
The unnamed People’s Liberation Army Air Force base lies right on a major migratory route for birds, meaning a the chance of a strike to military planes by the animals presents a very real and present danger.
“A tiny bird could lead to a major disaster at any time,” Su Chuang, a high-ranking officer, told the air force’s news website. “We are one of the largest airports on a migratory corridor.”
Large swarms of birds have the potential to be sucked into the planes’ engines mid flight, stopping them from working properly, endangering lives of military personnel and killing the birds.
Jokingly referred to as the army’s “secret weapon”, the clever macaques respond to whistle commands, removing bird nests that are spotted in trees around the airbase, so reducing the chance of a strike.
Previously, the base has tried a variety of other techniques including opening fire at the nests, and charging soldiers with climbing trees to retrieve the nests, Su Chuang explains. Neither proved effective, he said, as well as being time consuming, costly and dangerous.
For the macaques however, it is an easy task, which is safe, efficient and avoids excessive damage to the birds, station chief Wang Yue Jian, said.