While being parked on the tarmac at JFK airport, you would never guess that the cause of your delayed flight are migrating turtles wandering onto the runway. The New York Post is reporting that airport officials have constructed a huge barrier in hopes that the turtles will be safely herded away from the runways.
When the turtles, classified as Diamondback Terrapins, come to shore to nest, they have made the airport runway part of their journey, causing flight delays. To create a solution that improves airline service but also protects the turtles, airport workers plan to construct a 4,000-foot, 8-inch-wide plastic pipe that stretches across runway 4L and leads into Jamaica Bay marshes favored by the turtles.
“We’re trying to find a balance between nature and aviation,” Port Authority spokesman Ron Marsico told the Post. “We don’t want to see the turtles get hurt, and this should keep the airport running smoothly.”
While the barrier plan is expected to be effective, not all experts believe that it will make the turtles any safer. Dr. Russell Burke, a biology professor at Hofstra University who consulted with Port Authority on the fence, warned that the barrier might expose the turtles to raccoon predators.
“If you build a barrier like that, they might just walk along the barrier and nest there. Between 90 and 100 percent of terrapin turtles are killed by predators, so they need to be given a fighting chance,” Burke told the Post.
While those are harrowing numbers, the turtles, which are a protected species, have actually thrived in recent years. Burke estimates that their population has risen to over 20,000. Despite Burke’s warnings over predators, he still believes the barrier is the best solution.
“I think the barriers are a step in the right direction. It should stop flight delays and will hopefully keep the turtles safe,” Burke said.