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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Superstitions targeted in efforts to reduce rural livestock deaths

Superstitions targeted in efforts to reduce rural livestock deaths

Recent outbreaks have killed thousands of livestock in Pursat, but

authorities are succeeding in educating locals about preventive care.

AUTHORITIES in Pursat province are calling on residents to abandon traditional superstitions about how to cure sick animals, saying that rising livestock deaths have been countered by educating residents about proper medical care and providing vaccines to protect them from transmitted diseases.

Kong Reatrey, chief of the Animal Health and Production Bureau at the Pursat Provincial Department of Agriculture, said that infectious diseases had killed around 250 cows and buffaloes since October.

But although recent outbreaks were worrying, he said bovine diseases had been stemmed by encouraging people to abandon superstitions about animal sickness and adopt up-to-date medical procedures to deal with sick livestock.

 "They pray to ancestor forests, asking them to give good health to their animals," he said Tuesday.

"We educate people not to believe that superstition will treat sick animals.... They have to bring their animals to be vaccinated. We are not against their belief, but they must also follow our instructions."

Bovine curses

The most common diseases for cows and buffaloes - especially in the hot season, when diseases are more transmittable - are infectious diseases such as cowpox, foot-and-mouth disease and sepicemia haemorrhagic diseases, which can be prevented through vaccination.

He added that in Pursat, superstitions were most prevalent among ethnic minority peoples living in the forest or in remote mountainous areas.

Thim Ngok, chief of Chheu Tom commune in Krakor district, said that villagers in his area would indulge in superstitious practices when their animals fell sick.

"They believe that their animals will get better. We cannot get rid of their beliefs," he said.

They believe their animals will get better. we cannot get rid of their beliefs.

Chek Sath, a villager in Chheu Tom commune, said he did not bring his two buffaloes to get vaccinated because he has been busy in his rice fields and has no money to pay for vaccines, even though his animals fell sick when the weather became hot in January.

He said that he once tried to get vaccines from animal health officials, but that he had to pay them 1,000 riels (US$0.24).

"I do not want to pay for vaccines," he said. "I don't know why officials get money from poor people."

But Kong Reatrey said that vaccines are provided by the Ministry of Agriculture free of charge, but that local animal health officials charged people a small fee of 500 to 1,000 riels for their services, since they work as volunteers without salary from the government.

"They are also villagers who volunteer to educate people about animal diseases," he said.

Pursat authorities and health officials will hold a meeting today to discuss ways of educating people on how to treat their animals in line with current medical practice.

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