Thursday, 27 September 2012

ethnoveterinary plants and indigenous knowledge used for backyard pigs and gamecocks in Trinidad and Tobago

Non-experimental validation of ethnoveterinary plants and indigenous knowledge used for backyard pigs and gamecocks in Trinidad and Tobago Cheryl Lans Abstract This paper documents ethnoveterinary medicines used for backyard pigs and gamecocks in Trinidad and Tobago. Fieldwork was conducted from 1996 to September 2000. Six plants are used for backyard pigs. Crushed leaves of immortelle (Erythrina pallida, E. micropteryx) are used to remove dead piglets from the uterus. Leaf decoctions of bois canôt (Cecropia peltata) and bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris) are used for labour pains or leaves are fed as a post partum cleanser. Boiled green papaya fruit (Carica papaya) is fed to pigs to induce milk let down. The leaves and flowers of male papaya plants (Carica papaya) are fed to deworm pigs. Sour orange juice (Citrus aurantium) is given to pigs to produce lean meat and coffee grounds are used for scours. Eyebright and planten leaves (Plantago major) are used for eye injuries of gamecocks. Worm grass (Chenopodium ambrosioides) and cotton bush (Gossypium species) are used as anthelmintics. Aloe gel (Aloe vera) is used for internal injuries and the yellow sap from the cut Aloe vera leaf or the juice of Citrus limonia is used to purge the birds. The ethnomedicinal literature provides support for the ethnoveterinary uses of the plants and they could be assigned level two validity. Keywords: ethnoveterinary medicine, Caribbean, gamecocks, pigs Introduction The early Spanish and/or French colonists probably introduced cock fighting to Trinidad (Moodie-Kublalsingh, 1994). It is presently an illegal sport and has been an illegal activity for at least the last century. It should be noted that keeping gamecocks is not an illegal activity in Trinidad. Cock fighting previously took place at community gayelles in rural areas distant from official scrutiny. Nowadays cockfighting takes place at one urban gayelle. Trainers supervise gamecock training and the birds are kept in stables. The term's 'trainer' and 'stable' are borrowed from horse racing and many participants (especially in earlier times) participate in both sports. Although illegal, the ‘sport’ still attracts a few hundred participants. The cockfighting season lasts from December to July (primarily the dry season) and the birds start moulting in August. Birds are imported from Spain, Cuba and Venezuela. Local birds are also exported to St. Lucia and were previously exported to Venezuela. Moodie-Kublalsingh (1994) recorded some of the folk medicine associated with cock fighting. There are references to a big wasp called 'cojón de toro', and a plant called 'matapuelco' that were used to make cocks fearless (Moodie-Kublalsingh, 1994). Except for a description of a small corm at the base of the plant that had a milky juice, the plant was not botanically identified. The pulverised fresh plant or the juice of Eupatorium ayapana was applied to the wounds of fighting cocks in Puerto Rico in the 1800s (Ewen, 1896). This paper presents a preliminary study on medicinal plants used for backyard pigs and gamecocks and a non-experimental validation of these plants. This study was part of a larger research project on ethnoveterinary medicines used in Trinidad and Tobago. The number of users, type of users of the plants or consistency of use can be a guide to their merit. However in this paper a non-experimental validation of the plants, based on a methodology developed by Browner et al. (1988) and Heinrich et al. (1992) is used as a guide to the likely efficacy of the plants. Animal welfare The ancient nature of the ‘sport’ does not justify the cruelty involved but it needs to be recognised that cockfighting continues despite existing laws and sanctions. In fact according to the website of the Humane Society in the US, animal fighting is increasing. Similarly to boxers who are not denied medical treatment, the birds involved in cockfighting require health care. It is not inconsistent with professional ethics to deplore the animal cruelty involved in cockfighting but still provide health care or information on health care while the cruel practice continues. The intent of this paper is not to support or promote cock fighting, but to document the indigenous knowledge of cock caretakers. Some of the medicinal plants and their uses may prove relevant not only for the cocks needing health care but to treat injuries in other types of backyard poultry.