Images of a deformed lamb resembling a human – which have caused a stir on social media – have been proved to be true and not a hoax.
The Eastern Cape Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform said that a deformed stillborn lamb was born on a farm in the Lady Frere area.
The department’s Chief Director of Veterinary Services, Dr Lubabalo Mrwebi, confirmed that the deformed lamb was not the result of sheep ovum and a human sperm, but more likely the result of the sheep contracting a viral infection during the early stages of pregnancy.
Dr Mrwebi explained that the department believed the sheep to have contracted Rift Valley Fever (RVF), which then passed from the maternal blood into the uterus and the foetus during a critical stage of its development.
“We can confirm that this deformed lamb is not a progeny of sheep ovum and a human sperm.
“Virus infections in early stages of pregnancy may infect the foetus and lead to the development of malformations in the growing foetus. It is likely that this is what happened to the Lady Frere sheep,” Dr Mrwebi said.
“The gestation period for a sheep is five months. This means that this particular sheep conceived in late December 2016 or early January 2017‚ which was warm with plentiful rainfall in the Chris Hani district‚ conditions which are favourable to the proliferation of mosquitoes and midges known to be the vectors of viruses that cause such diseases such as the Rift Valley Fever (RVF),” Dr Mrwebi explained.
“The infected foetus then‚ as a result‚ failed to form properly‚ leading to the deformity that it became,” he explained.
These deformities include a deformed head as a result of the abnormal accumulation of fluid in the brain cavity, a smaller than normal brain and an underdeveloped lower jaw.
Dr Mrwebi said that the department was educating livestock farmers about the incident, and said that a lesson to be learned is the necessity of small stock farmers protecting their animals against diseases like RVF.
“The lesson we are learning from this experience is that small stock farmers must keep their animals protected against diseases like the Rift Valley Fever with a correct vaccine‚ which is best given long before the mating season so that by the time the females get pregnant they are already protected against this disease,” he said.