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Friday, 16 March, 2001, 17:05 GMT
Bloodsucker flies torment lions
lions
Big cats are being traumatised by the flies
By Andrew Harding in Nairobi, Kenya

Lions in Tanzania are being driven to an early grave by swarms of bloodthirsty flies.

The flies have been particularly prevalent in one of the world's most famous wildlife parks, the Ngorongoro Crater.

There, the blood-sucking insects are literally pestering the lions to death.


The lions are literally being pestered to death, pounded by swarms of blood-sucking flies.

The big cats are so traumatized by the experience that they forget to eat, and spend all their time trying to hide, climbing up trees and crouching in long grass.

They are, as one conservation official put it, dying of trauma.

So far, at least six lions are reported to have been killed by the flies in the Ngorongoro Crater - a spectacular wildlife reserve set in the middle of an old volcano.

The flies are a breed called stomoxys - they have sharp tubes sticking out of their mouths, which they use to suck blood.

They have been attacking the lions' open wounds, causing considerable pain.

The flies' numbers are believed to increase rapidly when there is an extreme climate change. After a long drought, it has been raining heavily in the park.

Intervention unlikely

Scientists from around the world have been helping the Tanzanian authorities to identify and deal with the problem.

But these are not farm animals, and wildlife officials say they are reluctant to intervene with pesticides or any other treatment.

They argue that the laws of nature should be allowed to take their course - the survival of the fittest.

In fact, the flies are not the only menace to larger animals in the Ngorongoro Crater.

Since May last year, hundreds of buffalos, dozens of zebras, five rhinos and three hippos have reportedly died in mysterious circumstances.

A disease called east coast fever, and another called babesiosis are suspected.

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