Gulu scientists develop waterbuck-scented perfume to protect animals from tsetse flies

Assoc Prof Richard Echodu displaying the repellant during an interview with THRiVE (PHOTO /Courtesy)

Researchers at Gulu University led by Assoc Prof. Richard Echodu have developed a water-buck scented repellant to protect livestock and people from tsetse flies.

Tsetse flies transmit the deadly cattle-disease, nagana, which weakens the animals’ meat and milk production capacities. In humans, they transmit sleeping sickness, a life-threatening disease associated with severe neurological conditions including poor coordination and confusion.

This new optimized tsetse repellant comprises of four chemical elements derived from a waterbuck’s skin odor and is effective against two savannah tsetse fly species. These are: Glossina morsitan submorsitans and Glossina pallidipes.

The researchers observed that tsetse flies avoid waterbucks, large antelope species found in sub-Saharan Africa, because they find the animals’ smell repellant.

To test the new repellant blend, the research team outfitted over 1000 cows with the perfume sachets and tracked them for two months. They found the repellant to be effective in preventing infections among the cows that had been fitted with the sachet compared to those which did not have it.

“The repellant has direct application to our farmers and has been found to reduce disease rates among animals by more than 80 per cent. It may also be used by tourists who go to the game parks that may be tsetse infested and to the military who are deployed in high-risk areas,” said Assoc Prof Echodu, Director, Gulu University Multifunctional Research Laboratories in an interview.

This scented blend has been approved by the National Drug Authority for wide scale use and is packaged in small transparent sachets that cost between UGX 2000 and 5000.

A Waterbuck

In terms of application, the perfume sachet is placed a small handmade pouch with strings which are tied on the tail of an animal.

It can also be tied on the neck of the animal or on belts of people. Echodu, a former career development researcher with THRiVE, says this perfume may also be used in shampoo and can also be masked in t-shirts.

A waterbuck


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