Kenyan scientists from the Insect Science Research Institute (icipe) have developed a cutting-edge technology that reduces levels of trypanosomiasis disease in cattle by more than 90 per cent. The tsetse fly repellant collar is impregnated with the body odor of waterbuck (a species of African antelope) which, scientists say, has a unique chemical compound that drives the flies away.
Tied around the neck of livestock, the collar slowly releases chemicals which tsetse flies pick up from 100 meters away. “This is a major breakthrough,” explains Rajinder Kumar Saini, head of icipe’s animal health division and the lead researcher of the project. “The ability of the animal to move freely with the collar, which is very light, is the biggest achievement of this invention.”
Also known as sleeping sickness, trypanosomiasis kills 3 million cattle every month in Africa. Infected animals suffer from poor growth, weight loss, low milk yield and often become infertile and die. The project has already protected over 2,000 animals in the Shimba Hills area of Kenya’s coast where the project was piloted. This area, which has thousands of livestock keepers, has been among the worst hit by tsetse flies, which are responsible for carrying the deadly disease. “The inconvenience of the tsetse flies to livestock rearing families, including massive loss in income, fueled demand,” Saini adds. “With the farmers also aware that the technology is mobile, and cattle could graze unperturbed, they were willing to pay extra for the collars.” Due to the overwhelming demand, icipe is searching for partners to produce prototypes for commercial distribution.