Residents of Mumui, Lairang’i and Rei in Meru County have resorted to dressing their donkeys in trousers to ward off flies whose bites cause open wounds, with the animals eventually dying.
Locals are afraid that the fly, which invaded the area two weeks ago, will spread to their cows and goats, a main source of livelihood in the area.
Mumui chief Silas Kinyua told the Nation that about 10 donkeys have died as a result of bites from the mystery fly.
He said the pest has a narrow appearance with a sharp mouth. Its bites and causes itching on animals.
“When they became a nuisance to the animals, we thought they were normal flies we are used to after rains. But, after the animal is bitten by the fly, it starts developing wounds on the legs. The donkey grows weak and dies. Its bites are lethal,” Mr Kinyua, whose donkey is also affected, said.
He said the local veterinary officer advised farmers to use a pesticide known as Ectopol and suggested injections if the treatment failed.
“People have been trying all manner of remedies without success, forcing them to dress the donkeys in trousers to ward off the fly. We are afraid that our cows may also be affected,” the chief said.
Laibuni Marimba, a resident, said they tried applying oil and other remedies but the pest was unmoved.
“The fly is sucking blood and causing stress in the donkeys, making them die. The bite becomes a wound within a very short time,” he said.
Meru County Livestock Chief Officer David Mugambi said they were investigating the issue.
“It is common for flies to increase after the rains. They can be a nuisance to livestock. Mites can also cause wounds on the skin of animals,” Dr Mugambi said.
According to the Donkey Sanctuary, a UK-based animal welfare organisation, flies and biting midges can cause distress, irritation and wounds on donkeys.
The biting midge, which is also found in Kenya, causes skin itching and affected areas may bleed.