A Local Plague

naponu and goat 2
Naponu and her very sick goat

This afternoon I’m sitting on the front porch with Naponu, the lady of my blog of a couple of weeks ago. You may remember that her very special goat “died of snake bite.” A band of

young warriors, who just “happened” to be passing by, took the opportunity to have a goat roast. Now another one of Naponu’s goats has a problem.

We are watching her black and white goat that recently gave birth stagger around our front yard like a Maasai elder on his way home from a honey beer party. The goat is a victim of the disease “Olmilo”.  This good milk goat was perfectly healthy and producing milk yesterday morning.  Last evening she was in trouble, dizzy, disoriented, wandering aimlessly around with a high fever, and bumping into things.  This morning, she is dying.  “Olmilo” is a plague that has gotten into North Maasailand and is destroying cattle and goats in some numbers.

musa and goat
Musa going after Naponu’s sick goat. Musa has been walking since three weeks.

At the time I came to Ngorongoro 28 years ago it was still a new thing, and people weren’t too concerned.  They figured that there must be medicine to cure it, and if the medicine were obtainable in Arusha or Nairobi or wher­ever, it would soon become available in our part of the country.  This complacency has long since dissolved.  It turns out that it is a “tick-born” disease known by the English name Hartwater.  There seems to be no known cure once the animal is infected.  The only medicine is preventive in the form of dipping the animal about once a week.

The fact that it can only be dealt with by dipping is enough to strike fear into the heart of the most stalwart Maasai here in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.  The dips are a disaster.  They are under the control of Ngorongoro Conservation and are not maintained nor supplied with cattle dip. In fact dipping is not a viable option for the ordinary Maasai person.  First of all, the medicine is not readily available and it is very expensive.  To shorten a long sad story, a lot of the medicine is sold on the black market or “magendo” as it is called in Swahili.  With a huge markup in price, I’ll leave it to your imagination as to how much medi­cine gets to the dipping tanks.  The people, desperate because they see their herds dwindling before their eyes, sell healthy animals to buy the lifesaving medicine.  Then, the stuff being so precious, they carefully dilute it to the prescribed ratio of water to medicine and then carefully, with a cloth, wipe it on to the parts of the animals most prone to tick infestation, the ears and under the tail.  Fewer cattle die in the herds of those people who have the wherewithal to get the medicine at the inflated prices, but even among those herds, cattle continue to die, since submersion is the only sure way to get to all the ticks.

Among the majority of herds of cattle and flocks of goats and sheep, which have no access to the medicine, the situation is very bad.  Even when some barrel or other of medicine does find it’s way to the dips – and this, surprisingly enough, does happen from time to time – ” they must pay for each animal that goes through the dipping tank. Most of the people find this prohibitive as large numbers of animals are involved and they must be dipped every seven days.

Naponu does buy as much dip medicine as she is able and applies it as often as she can. It helps but now and then she still loses an animal to “olmilo.” Naponu’s goat is doomed – It looks like we’ll be having a goat roast in a day or two.

One thought on “A Local Plague”

  1. I’m sorry to hear about the plague. I hope things get better somehow very soon.

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