By Helvy Shaanika
ONGWEDIVA – Some livestock in the north are scavenging on anything edible, as the dry spell continues, a situation that cost a farmer from Ongwediva close to 20 head of cattle after they ate a poisonous plant.
The cattle of Petrus Alweendo from Elyambala village of Ongwediva ate the leaves and pods of a deadly omushehe plant, whose scientific name is Albizia versicolor.
The pods or fruits of the Albizia versicolor tree, which look like cassava, are the deadliest components of the plant and animals that graze on this plant stand a slim chance of survival if they are not treated on time.
“The pods contain high levels of poison and when animals consume them, they go into hypertension. When they walk, they get tired quickly. The blood clots and the brain suffocates,” explained Dr Rauna Athingo.
Athingo, who attended to Alweendo’s cattle, said there was a very minimal chance to save the livestock, as the fast-killing poison had already entered their blood system.
Under normal circumstances, livestock would not consume Albizia versicolor, however, because of the scarcity of grass, animals resort to scavenging on anything green, or anything that looks edible, including papers and plastic bags.
“It seems someone from the town cut some trees in their yard and illegally dumped them at the former dumpsite and our animals consumed that,” said Lena David, Alweendo’s wife.
Alweendo’s homestead is located at Elyambala village, which has now fallen within the boundaries of Ongwediva Town Council. A number of villagers from that area are yet to relocate.
“One cannot help it but to feel bad. The town council has long moved the dumpsite to the area were waste is dumped and burned, but some people still opt to come and dump the waste here. It will be appreciated if people use the designated dumpsite,” said David. By Thursday afternoon, the family had already sacrificed to slaughter 14 cattle as they knew they were not going to survive. Apart from the 14 cattle, six more appeared sick and there were more that also showed symptoms of being poisoned.
Fortunately, Alweendo and his family were advised by the vet the meat was not poisonous to humans, and they have since sold the meat.