Have you ever seen some small birds (red or yellow billed) riding on your cow or other livestock? Have you wondered why they seem to enjoy the ride, and why the animals seemed to be at peace with the “ride?”
While enormous conservation efforts are made to protect large mammals like elephants and rhinos, so much so that millions are spent in purchasing weapons and employing more manpower; not much attention is given to other species like birds. Yet these species’ contribution in the eco-system is important.
Considerate of the fact that sustainable farming methods should be practiced in this climate change era, issues like pest and parasite control should be applied through natural means than artificial ones, where possible.
These birds, called Oxpeckers, pluck out the ticks on the animals’ hides; thus reducing their risk of being infected by parasites-borne diseases.
But due to ignorance, in an attempt to control ticks and other parasites, farmers use dips, some of which are dangerous to Oxpeckers.
A Conservationist at Birdlife Botswana, Dudu Bethel revealed in an interview that: “Some dips are not environment friendly, in that they kill Oxpeckers though they are natural parasite controllers that are environment friendly.
It should be noted that ticks do not leave the animal’s hide immediately the dip is applied to where they are sucking its blood. It is only after death that they fall from there. Should the Oxpecker come and pluck out the dipped tick its life is endangered.”
She emphasized that Oxpecker control population of ticks and other external parasites, and cleans an animal so that it is free from ticks and other external parasites. On average, Red-billed Oxpecker consume just over 400 ticks in a day, (about 150 000 annually).
And so, it is a given fact that Oxpeckers will always relieve animals and will not do harm to the environment. Some dips, on the other hand, might fail to kill ticks but still harm parts of the eco-system.
Furthermore she elucidated that although 2015 IUCN Red list shows both yellow and red billed Oxpecker as least concern, both are: “Declining in areas where farmers remove ticks from livestock with inappropriate agro-chemicals.
While beneficial to Oxpecker; farmers should take care to use the non-toxic dips according to the manufacturers’ instructions, otherwise they too could have listed above adverse effects Oxpecker and other birds.”
Information from Ecologically Sound Management of Ectoparasites and Oxpecker ectoparasiticide web page cautions that: “Mixing of homemade acaricides (tick control agents) is the major reason for developing resistance to animal dips. Home mixing, apart from being an illegal practice also contribute to the escalating prices of animal dips, as new products have to be developed at great costs. The wildlife conflict prevention group therefore recommends that no products other than those that are specifically manufactured as animal dips should be used for the control of ectoparasites.”