Veterinary officers and donkey welfare specialists have identified the fly that has ravaged donkeys and caused panic to residents of Tigania, Meru County after it left at least 40 animals dead in a span of two weeks.
Health officials say the Stable fly, known scientifically as Stomoxys calcitrans, was responsible for biting animals in the area, sucking their blood and leaving them with gaping wounds. The infestation had forced residents to dress their animals in trousers to protect them.
The team drawn from Kenya Network for Dissemination of Agricultural Technologies (KENDAT), Brooke East Africa and the Veterinary Department treated over 300 donkeys in Kandabene, Limoro, Mumui, Lairang’i and Rei villages.
Dr Samantha Opere, a veterinary surgeon with KENDAT, said they were drawn to action following a story on the locals' plight by the Nation.
She said stable flies, which have a sharp proboscis, had invaded the area following prolonged rains that have been pounding the region.
“The flies were mostly found biting the legs and face of donkeys where they are able to access blood from the animal. This was causing a lot of irritation. Most of the animals that we have treated had wounds on the legs, ears and face,” said Dr Opere.
The officers dewormed the donkeys, treated their wounds and sprayed them with synthetic pyrethrum that would repel the flies for at least 21 days.
The officials also taught owners how to manage the wounds and treat their animals so that they could get rid of the insects.
Tens of owners who turned up for the two-day exercise narrated the pain they underwent as they watched their reliable beasts of burden become weak, with some succumbing.
Edward Mwongela, 40, said he lost five donkeys in a span of two weeks.
“They started developing wounds but even after applying creams, the insects still attacked them. It is a big blow since I had taken a loan to buy two of them for my work,” he said.
Athwana chief Adrian Nabea said donkeys are the most reliable means of transport in the area whose vast land is semi-arid.
“Donkey owners had become desperate and were dressing their animals in trousers but the clothing only heightened their suffering because of the excessive heat. The animals were generally restless and could not work effectively,” he said.
Dr James Kithuka, an official with Brooke EA that advocates for rights donkeys, mules and horses, said the country has about 1.8 million donkeys.