Saturday, July 29, 2006

More melodrama than an episode of Family Law...

The ISW has featured a lot of horror stories about plants and animals, and that's to be expected, given the subject matter here. However, it is rare that a story is so awful that I actually decide to give up and go to sleep rather than try to summarize the atrocities. Here we have one of those stories, posted at, about the problems caused by the intentionally introduced shrub known as mathenge (Prosopis juliflora). While this plant has been blogged in several other posts at the ISW, none of the articles has been as bad as this. To summarize:

  • A woman's goats and sheep ate mathenge pods, then died of starvation after their teeth fell out.
  • The same woman lost her finger and has a paralyzed hand after she injured said hand on a mathenge thorn.
  • A man can no longer enjoy drinking with his friends because he is unable to make his way home from said festivities without coming into contact with the horrid mathenge plants (and, I assume, risking the loss of his digits).
(Ok, that last one is a bit weak, but it doesn't matter because anyone reading this will forever be plagued by images of toothless goats.)

Some fact-checking is in order here. The PIER program did a thorough risk assessment of mathenge (which we call "mesquite" here in North America) and they do note a study where goats were fed the pods of this species, leading to "partial anorexia, depression, salivation, twitching, dehydration and bloody diarrhoea" (how do you tell if a goat is depressed?). This article from GISP notes that wounds caused by mathenge thorns are more prone to infection, but doesn't say why. The Botanical Dermatology Database notes the wax on the thorns can cause serious eye injury, and this post over at the Bike Mojo message board provides further anecdotal evidence of poisonous thorns.

Sounds like Mr. Lekakimon was smart to cut down on his social drinking. But negative points to The Nairobi Nation for the dramatic overkill. Sheesh.

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