Cute Goats and (less cute) Ticks!

|Cute Goats and (less cute) Ticks!

The TBI Fall 2014 Field School students visited a livestock boma (enclosure) this past week to learn more about goats, grazing and the ecology of livestock in this arid environment. Goats are the main form of livestock kept in this part of the world and an important part of the local economy and culture.

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Setting off in search of goats

We soon made our way to one of the goat bomas and were warmly greeted as we made our introductions:

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Meeting our neighbours

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Goat grazing on some wire grass

 

A couple of students have been working on questions related to livestock and vector-borne diseases, including ticks, so part of this visit was to enable them to put some of their research into a better context.

A goat having a good rub in the sand!

A goat having a good rub in the sand!

 

In order to examine the goats and look at the ticks on them, first we had to round them up:

Peter and friend help round up the goats

Peter and friend help round up the goats

This took a few minutes, but soon the goats were corralled in their boma:

Goats wondering what's about to happen...

Goats wondering what’s about to happen…

Ned then set to work examining and measuring the goats with the help of Linus.

Examining the goats

Examining the goats

The ticks do get groomed off the goats, so Ned had to look closely around the eyes and ears of the goats:

Searching for ticks

Searching for ticks

Meanwhile one of the young goats wandered up close to the group – giving us a chance to take a closer look.

Appreciating the baby goat!

Appreciating the baby goat!

Letty from UCL and her new friend

Letty from UCL and her new friend

Lucy from UCL examines the goat

Lucy from UCL examines the goat

Megan from the American University meets the goat

Megan from the American University meets the goat

Cuteness aside, we did find a few ticks on the goat – all appeared to be in the genus Rhipicephalus:

Ticks around the goats' eyes

Ticks around the goats’ eyes

These ticks are important vectors in some areas, although goats appear to be fairly resistant to the diseases they transmit (primarily East Coast Fever to cattle). The students learned a lot about the challenges facing livestock husbandry in this region as well as some basic biology about ticks and their hosts. One of the challenges facing livestock in a changing environment is that of new and emerging vector-borne diseases – and the data collected by students provides valuable baseline information for longer-term future studies.

Close up of the Rhipicephalus ticks

Close up of the Rhipicephalus ticks

More adventures from the Field School soon!

By | 2017-01-04T18:04:52+00:00 September 20th, 2014|Field Schools|Comments Off on Cute Goats and (less cute) Ticks!

About the Author:

Hello! I'm Dino Martins, an entomologist interested in how insects keep the planet running, the biology of vectors and more broadly in the evolution of life and our role in a sustainable world. I teach for the Turkana Basin Field School and serve as the Academic Field Director and am a Research Assistant Professor at Stony Brook University.