Sunday, January 25, 2009

watching out for the zebus of Madagascar

In the scorched stretch between Vohemar and Sambava in Northeast Madagascar, landscapes were of pastures, woods and farms. Settlements were sparse. However, we had to stop or slow down at least eight times, not for some comfort need or for gas but to let hulking animals pass by before us. As cattle go, they took their time. The cattle, known as Madagascar zebus or Bos primigenius indicus, were proving to be dangerous traffic stoppers for they roam across the road in hordes. While cattle rustling or pilferage are common in the big cities, zebus in the north still enjoy freedom all over the rolling hills, leas and hi-ways. According to our contact, 5 wild zebus are typical roadkills in the 150km road from Sambava airport to the port city of Vohemar. That's not to say the loss in life and property that goes with the accidents.

zebu blocking the road
holding up traffic at Vohemar, Madagascar
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/125s, f/8.0, 55mm, ISO 100

The original zebus, sometimes known as "humped cattle", probably were native from the Indian subcontinent but disappeared due to interbreeding with domestic cattle. Zebus came to Africa for hundreds of years through ships and interbred with taurine cattle but relatively pure unnadulterated breed still thrives in Madagascar.

traffic control
a tethered zebu at Vohemar, Madagascar
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/160s, f/5.6, 55mm, ISO 100

Coming in many colors and sporting lyre-shaped horns, the zebus are still bred for meat, milk and burden like they always have been. Some things never go out of fashion.

zebu in pasture
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/200s, f/5.6, 18mm, ISO 100

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