Reflective eartags

Dusk and dawn are notoriously dangerous times of the day for motorists. With low visibility, obstacles are often spotted too late to avoid collisions.
Issue date : 22 August 2008

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Dusk and dawn are notoriously dangerous times of the day for motorists. With low visibility, obstacles are often spotted too late to avoid collisions. Built like the proverbial brick outhouse, cows that roam on or alongside deserted stretches of road pose a grave danger to motorists, especially at these times of day.

Cattle that stray onto roads and put the lives of motorists at risk are the responsibility of the farmers who own them, so it’s essential that farmers take reasonable steps to keep their cattle – and the public – safe. Simon Morgan, a PhD candidate at the School of Biological Conservation Sciences at KwaZulu-Natal University, has embarked on a project to make cows more visible to motorists.

“About a year ago I witnessed a horrific head-on collision with a cow that left two people dead,” recalls Simon. “I decided I had to do something about it.” W hile working as a black rhino researcher on Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, Simon came up with the idea of tagging cows from the nearby community with reflective ear tags. “I mentioned it to two of my guests, Sue and Eric Simonsen, who decided that no time should be wasted and promptly offered to sponsor the entire project.”

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And so the programme that Simon has named Reflekt-a-Cow was launched. “Basically we’ve designed reflectors that can be used with conventional cow tags,” says Simon. “The reflector has a hole punched into it through which the tag is put before it’s punched through the cow’s ear.” The double-sided white reflector that can be seen at least 150m away in car headlights. “They’re very effective and visible,” explains “They’re also durable and I’m expecting them to last the lifespan of the tags, or the cow.” The light reflectors are sourced from China, while the cow tags are made locally by Tagem in Pietermaritzburg.

Tagging thousands of cows
Simon is currently tagging 5 000 community cows with a bit of “bling” – or “bling bling” if they have a reflector on both ears – in the communities along the roads between Hluhluwe and Sodwana Bay in KwaZuluNatal. “We’ve tagged about 1 000 cows so far and the reflectors work well,” he says. “We’re yet to have issues with them.” imon has employed Jabulani Nxumalo, a member of the community, to oversee the tagging of the cows and is relying on cow owners to help out. “We use the community dips where the cows are taken on the weekend as a tagging point. Although a KZN Nguni cow is not the easiest thing to contain and tag, we are being successful,” explains Simon.

“The community have been really enthusiastic about the project – although one elderly gent was worried that I was going to come back after a month and claim his cows as they now have my tags on them.” Simon says the ear reflectors should not be seen as a quick-fix solution or an excuse for farmers to let their cattle roam freely along the sides of roads. “I’m sure no farmer intends for their cattle to stray, but no one can be everywhere at once, and the gates will be left open no matter how many times it’s requested that they be closed,” says

“The reflector is something farmers should be aware of as a simple option to help light up any animals that might stray. If even one life is saved by a driver seeing the reflector on a cow then the 10 000 cows we have tagged will be a small price to pay.” The reflector currently retails at about R4. – Robyn Joubert Contact Auriel Mitchley on (011) 889 0796 or e-mail [email protected] |fw