Fake cows help to reduce sleeping sickness and use of insecticides
- By: Annabel Ferriman
A new artificial cow is helping to eradicate the tsetse fly from parts of Africa, thereby reducing the incidence of sleeping sickness, which is transmitted by the pest.
Although the fake cows do not look like cows (see picture right), they smell like them, attracting the flies with kairomones, a blend of chemicals emitted by one species and detected by another. The flies then die because the fake cattle are impregnated with insecticides.
Developed by an international group of researchers, including scientists from the University of Greenwich, the cows were introduced into Zimbabwe in the mid-1980s, when thousands of cattle were infected with nagana, a disease equivalent to sleeping sickness in cattle. Cases of nagana in the country plummeted to almost zero and have remained at this low level for the past five years. As many as 60000 artificial cows are now in use in Zimbabwe.
Their use has also