Slovak scientists hope to help Ethiopia eradicate tsetse flies


Ethiopia has begun an ambitious plan to eradicate the tsetse fly. The insect carries a parasite that causes sleeping sickness that affects a few million people on the continent and makes a quarter of Africa unfit for cattle. Slovakia's National Institute of Zoology has recently begun a project to help affected African states fight the insect.

Tsetse FlyTsetse Fly Peter Takac is the project leader:

We are developing a new mass rearing facility for the tsetse flies and it will be a seed mass rearing facility. We will supply Ethiopia, Tanzania and Botswana with tsetse pupae. They will be developing a huge mass rearing facility for 10 million flies. After that they will produce tsetse fly males. They will be irradiated and then released to the field where they will copulate with wild females. Since they will be sterile, it will gradually rid Ethiopia of the tsetse flies.

The Ethiopian project is part of a larger strategy whose financer is the International Atomic Energy Agency. It provided Slovakia with equipment worth $350,000, a sum much higher than the annual budget of the Institute of Zoology. Fedor Ciampor, a young researcher involved in the project introduces the facility.

We are right now in the core of our facility. Here we store the flies. You can see small raft cages. At the beginning we put some ration of males and females into these cages and they produce larvae, not the eggs, and they take care of their children till the last stage of larvae. You can see here the pupae. Now we have here maybe 40,000 females which produce some five-to-six thousand pupae per week.

Peter Takac says this is a great opportunity for local researchers.

We are not profiting from this grant, we are not selling the pupae. But on the other hand, we are a scientific institution and we are able to get other grants and start some other interesting research projects. Doing the really competitive science with other countries is very expensive.

And even if the project seems to be very successful, some leading experts on insect pests in Africa have been skeptical. They say that there are so many tsetse flies that some will be able to escape and regenerate.


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