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Open Access

Ethnozoological study of traditional medicinal appreciation of animals and their products among the indigenous people of Metema Woreda, North-Western Ethiopia

  • Fasil Adugna Kendie1Email author,
  • Sileshi Andualem Mekuriaw1 and
  • Melkamu Andargie Dagnew1
Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine201814:37

https://doi.org/10.1186/s13002-018-0234-7

Received: 2 October 2017

Accepted: 3 May 2018

Published: 23 May 2018

Abstract

Background

Using animals for different purposes goes back to the dawn of mankind. Animals served as a source of food, medicine, and clothing for humans and provided other services. This study was designed to undertake a cross-sectional ethnozoological field survey among the residents of Metema Woreda from November 2015 to May 2016.

Methods

Data were collected through studied questionnaires, interviews, and focus group discussions with 36 purposively selected respondents.

Results

Ethnozoological data were collected of the local name of the animals, part of the animal used, mode of preparation and administration, and of additional information deemed useful. A total of 51 animal species were identified to treat around 36 different ailments. Of the animals used therapeutically, 27 species were mammals, 9 were birds, 7 arthropods, 6 reptiles, and 1 species each represented fish and annelids. Furthermore, the honey of the bee Apis mellifera was used to relieve many ailments and scored the highest fidelity value (n = 35.97%). The snake (Naja naja) and the teeth of crocodiles (Crocodylus spp.) had the lowest fidelity value (n = 2.56%).

Conclusion

The results show that there is a wealth of ethnozoological knowledge to be documented which could be of use in developing new drugs. Hence, it is hoped that the information contained in this paper will be useful in future ethnozoological, ethnopharmacological, and conservation-related research of the region.

Keywords

Traditional medicineIndigenous knowledgeEthnozoologyZootherapy

Background

Using animals for different purposes goes back to the dawn of mankind. Animals served as a source of food, medicine, and clothing for humans and provided other services [1]. The traditional medicinal knowledge of indigenous people across the globe has played an important role in identifying living organisms which are endowed with medicinal values important for treating human and livestock health problems. Since ancient times, animals and their products have been used in the preparation of traditional remedies in various cultures [2]. Human societies have accumulated a vast store of knowledge about animals through the centuries, which is closely integrated with many other cultural aspects, and this zoological knowledge is an important part of our human cultural heritage [3].

The cure for human ailments using therapeutics from animals is known as zootherapy [4]. It plays a significant role in the healing practices, magic rituals, and religious societies all over the world [5, 6]. In the modern era, zootherapy constitutes a major alternative among many other known therapeutic practices in the world. Wild as well as domestic animals and their by-products such as hooves, skins, bones, feathers, and tusks serve as important ingredients in the preparation of curative, protective, and preventive medicines [5, 7, 8].

Traditional medicines have been important in connection with drugs like digitoxin, reserpine, tubocurarine, and ephedrine [9]. Of the 252 essential chemicals that have been selected by the World Health Organization, 8.7% come from animals [10].

Loss of traditional knowledge of indigenous communities had impact the development of modern medicine. It is important to document the traditional knowledge of human communities, since the majority of such communities are losing their socioeconomic and cultural characteristics [10]. Animals and the products derived from their body organs constitute part of the inventory of medicinal substances which are used widely by the people since time immemorial, and such practices still exist in traditional medicines [10]. Traditional healing methods involving hundreds of insect and other invertebrate species are reviewed by Meyer-Rochow [11]. In South Africa, animals and plants are commonly used as traditional medicines for both the healing of ailments and for symbolic purposes such as improving relationships and attaining good fortune [12].

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, more than 1500 animal species had been recorded to be some medicinal use [13]. In Brazil, Alves and Rosa reported the medicinal use of 283 animal species for the treatment of various ailments [1417].

In Ethiopia, 70% of human and 90% of livestock population depend on traditional medicine. Although Ethiopians are known for their widespread use of traditional medicines with various levels of sophistication within the indigenous medical lore, the vast knowledge of the traditional uses of animal species of therapeutic value is not well documented for the various regions of the country. Moreover, since most of the knowledge is conveyed along generations through word of mouth, the traditional knowledge as well as the products used by these people is under threat [18].

In Metema Woreda, there were a number of studies about ethnobotany and traditional medicine, diversity, and floristic compositions of plants. However, despite the great diversity of ethnic groups and cultures in this area, ethnozoological studies of traditional medicinal animals have not yet been sufficiently addressed. Metema Woreda is characterized by the presence of a mosaic of ethnic groups with deep rooted culture of using traditional medicinal plants and animals. Hence, this study is aimed to explore ethnozoology and preparations of animals and its products as traditional medicine used to cure different human and animal ailments.

Methods

Study area description

The study was conducted in Metema Woreda in the Amhara National Regional State. The Woreda is about 333 km to the North West of Bahir Dar, the Capital City of Amhara Regional State. Metema is one of the Woredas in the Semien Gondar Zone, bordered by Qwara in the south, Sudan in the west, Mirab Armachiho in the north, Tach Armachiho in the northeast, Chilga in the east, and Takusa in the southeast. The Woreda constitutes a total of 20 Peasant Kebele administrations, of which 18 are rural-based peasant administration areas [19, 20]. The Woreda is the home of many ethnic groups including Agaw, Tigrie, Oromo, Gumuz, and Amhara migrated from the different angles of the country for different reasons displaying a diversity of cultures and indigenous belief.

Selection of study sites

A preliminary study was conducted in November 2015 to select specific study sites in the Woreda and test data collection tools. The study was conducted in six kebeles of Metema Woreda (Birshign; Kokit; Mender 6, 7, and 8; Metema Yohannis; Aftit; and Meka) from November 2015 to May 2016. These kebeles were purposively selected based on the availability of many traditional healers, presence of different ethnic groups, and accessibility of the area.

Sampling and data collection

The ethnozoological data (local name of animals, mode of preparation and administration, and part of the animal used) were collected through questionnaires, interviews, and focus group discussion with selected residents of Metema Woreda. Purposively, 36 key informants were selected, and questionnaires, interviews, and focus group discussion were made within these informants [21]. These informants were local herbalists, traditional healers, farming experts, midwives, and spiritual intellectuals. The selections of key informants were based on their experience and recognition as knowledgeable members concerning traditional zootherapeutics (the so called expert by the local people) [22]. Different types of ethnozoological data were collected from each type of key informants.

Group discussion

Brief group discussions were made at each site prior to the distribution of detailed questionnaires on the importance of animals in traditional medicine and related issues with the selected informants of the study site. During the discussions, an attempt was made to encourage the healers in such a way that their cooperation would be of benefit to the country and at same time an informed consent was obtained before data collection.

Semi-structured interviews

A semi-structured checklist and interview questions were prepared in advance. The interviews were based on this checklist, and some issues were raised promptly depending on the responses of an informant. The interview was held in Amharic, the language of the people by the researchers. The place and time for the discussion was set based on the interest of the informants.

Informant consensus

During the course of the study, each informant was visited three times in order to confirm the reliability of the ethnozoological information. Consequently, the responses of an informant that were not in harmony with each other were rejected since they were considered as unreliable information.

Animal specimen collections and identifications

The local names and associated attributes of medicinal animals were recorded for each of the species. The specimens with its common name, photograph, dead skin, hair, fur, and some products were collected and taken to Bahir Dar University (BDU) for species identification. Identification of the medicinal animals was done in BDU, using Internet and animal key by comparison with collected plates and illustrations.

Data analysis

The data obtained were summarized and analyzed using descriptive statistical methods. In the ethnozoological data that were obtained from the interviews on reported medicinal animals and associated knowledge, fidelity level (FL) was calculated as the percentage of respondents claiming the use of a certain animal species for the same ailments, for the most frequently reported diseases or ailments as
$$ \mathrm{FL}\ \left(\%\right)={\mathrm{Np}}^{\ast }\ 100/N $$

where Np is the number of respondents that claim a use of a species to treat a particular disease and N is the number of respondents that use the animals as a medicine to treat any given disease [23]. The range of fidelity level (FL) is from 1 to 100%; high values indicate that this particular animal species is used by large number of people, while a low value shows that respondents disagree on the usefulness of a species in treating ailments.

Results

This study revealed the traditional medicinal knowledge of treating various kinds of ailments using different animals and their parts/products by local inhabitants of different kebeles of Metema Woreda (North-Western Ethiopia). Many people were found to lack formal schooling education, but they have knowledge about the use of local animal resources for traditional medicines.

Socio-demographic characteristics of the respondents such as sex, age, educational level, and marital status were collected and presented (Table 1).
Table 1

Socio-demographic characteristics of the respondents

Basic information

Number of respondents

Percentage (%)

Sex

 Male

34

94.4

 Female

2

5.6

Age

 35–44 years

6

16.7

 45–60 years

20

55.5

 > 60 years

10

27.8

Educational level

 Illiterate

15

41.7

 Literate

21

58.3

Marital status

 Married

34

94.4

 Single

1

2.8

 Divorced

1

2.8

Information regarding the way to acquire traditional medicinal knowledge, duration of time to use traditional medicine, the reason that forces the people to use traditional medicines, categories of people that use traditional medicine, the outlooks of people about the use of traditional medicine, conservation, and documentation mechanisms of traditional medicinal animals were gathered from all respondents (Table 2).
Table 2

Information that was acquired by close-ended questionnaire

No.

Questions

Choices

No. of respondents

Percentage (%)

1

Where did you learn traditional medicinal knowledge?

A) Family

16

44.4

B) Books

4

11.1

C) Surrounding society

12

33.3

D)Experience

4

11.1

Total

36

 

2

How many times people use traditional medicines?

A) Sometimes

15

41.7

B) Always

13

36.1

C) Situational

8

22.2

Total

36

 

3

What was the reason that forces the people to use traditional medicines?

A) Economy

7

19.4

B) Lack of modern medicine

10

27.8

C) Effectiveness

19

52.8

Total

36

 

4

Which categories of people use traditional medicines in large quantity?

A) Ethnic group

5

13.9

B) Nations

1

2.8

C) Religion

5

13.9

D) All

25

69.4

Total

36

 

5

What looks like the outlooks of people about use of traditional medicines?

A) Good

15

41.7

B) Bad

1

2.8

C) Intermediate

20

55.5

Total

36

 

6

Are there any conservation and documentation mechanisms of traditional medicinal animals?

A) Yes

3

8.3

B) No

31

86.1

C) Some

2

5.5

Total

36

 
Fifty-one animal species (Table 5) were found to be used for the treatment of over 36 kinds of ailments. There were 27 species belonging to mammals, 9 to birds, 7 arthropods, 6 reptiles, and 1 each among the fish and annelid (Table 3).
Table 3

Animal groups and number of species used for traditional medicine in the study area

No.

Animal groups

Number of species

Percentage (%)

1

Mammals

27

52.9

2

Birds

9

17.6

3

Reptiles

6

11.8

4

Fish

1

2

5

Arthropods

7

13.7

6

Annelid

1

2

The animals and their parts/products were found to be used for the treatment of around 36 different kinds of ailments including rheumatism, malaria, wart, stomachache, toothache, herpes, headache, rabies, tuberculosis, anemia, trachoma, gastritis, asthma, paralysis, and cough. The animals were used as whole or their products like milk, blood, organ, meat, teeth, and honey for the treatment of various ailments (Table 8).

According to the data (Table 4), meat/fat was the most widely used medicinal parts/products of animals in traditional medicine, followed by visceral organs, products and bone/teeth, and external body parts with similar percentages. On the other hand, an animal’s whole body and excreta, and blood were found to be the least used medicinal parts/products of animals.
Table 4

Animal parts or products used to traditional medicine in the study area

No.

Medicinal parts/products of animals

No. of parts/products used

Percentage (%)

1

Meat/fat

23

23.5

2

Visceral organ (liver, spleen, Bile, stomach/intestine)

21

21.4

3

Products (honey, venom, milk, butter)

13

13.3

4

Bone/teeth

12

12.2

5

External Body part (head, tail, leg, skin, horn, spine/thorn)

12

12.2

6

Excreta (stool and urine)

6

6.1

7

Whole body

6

6.1

8

Blood

5

5.1

In the study area, different parts or products of animals were used to treat different types of ailments. The highest number of cow parts or products 8 (3.8%) used to treat 8 (4.5%) ailments. The second rank was occupied by common warthog (Phacochoerus africanus), porcupine (Hystrix spp.), spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), and elephant (Elephas maximus) with similar number of parts/products 5 (2.5%) and used to treat 8 (4.5%), 13 (7.5%), 11 (6.2%), and 7 (3.9%) ailments, respectively (Table 5).
Table 5

Mode of application/administrations of traditional medicines

No.

Mode of application

No. of application

Percentage (%)

Mode of entry

1

Eating

30

28.0

Oral

2

Drinking

27

25.2

Oral

3

Tying

18

16.8

Not enter

4

Anointing

14

13.1

Dermal

5

Banding

6

5.6

Dermal

6

Massaging

6

5.6

Dermal

7

Fumigation

3

2.8

Nasal

8

Heating

3

2.8

Dermal

Preparations varied according to ailment and involved cooking, burning, crushing/grinding, wrapping, powdering, and drying or the use of fresh animal parts/products (Table 6).
Table 6

Medicinal animals and their parts/products used and number of ailments treated

Animal group

Common name

Local name

Scientific name

No. of parts/products used

No. of ailments treated

N (%)

N (%)

Mammals

Wild boar

Ria

Sus scrofa

1 (0.5)

4 (2.2)

Common warthog

Kerkero

Phacochoerus africanus

5 (2.5)

8 (4.5)

Cow

Lam

Bos taurus

8 (3.9)

8 (4.5)

Cheetah

Aboshemane

Acinonyx jubatus

1 (0.5)

1 (0.6)

Camel

Gimel

Camelus dromedaries

1 (0.50

4 (2.2)

Porcupine

Jart

Hystrix spp.

5 (2.5)

13 (7.3)

Human

Sew

Homo sapiens

1 (0.5)

1 (0.6)

Donkey

Ahiya

Equus africanus asinus L.

1 (0.5)

5 (2.8)

Rat

Ayti

Rattus spp.

3 (1.5)

3 (1.7)

Spotted hyna

Gib

Crocuta crocuta

5 (2.5)

11 (6.2)

Gazelle

Agazen

Gazella spp.

2 (1.0)

2 (1.1)

Goat

Fiyel

Capra aegagrus hircus L.

4 (2.0)

12 (6.7)

Hippopotamus

Gumare

Hippopotamus amphibius

1 (0.5)

3 (1.7)

Pigs

Asama

Sus scrofa domesticus

2 (1.0)

3 (1.7)

Monitor lizard

Arjano

Varanus spp.

1 (0.5)

1 (0.6)

Sheep

Beg

Ovis aries

1 (0.5)

1 (0.6)

Olive baboon

Zingero

Papio anubis

3 (1.5)

4 (2.2)

Cat

Dimet

Felis domesticus

1 (0.5)

1 (0.6)

Elephant

Zihon

Elephas maximus

5 (2.5)

7 (3.9)

Bear

Dib

Melursus ursinus

1 (0.5)

1 (0.6)

Vervet monkey

Tota

Chlorocebus pygerythrus

1 (0.5)

2 (1.1)

Common fox

Kebero

Canis spp.

2 (1.0)

5 (2.8)

Giraffe

Kechinie

Giraffa camelopardalis

2 (1.0)

1 (0.6)

Dog

Wusha

Canis familaries

1 (0.5)

1 (0.6)

Ethiopian hare

Tinchel

Lepus fagani

3 (1.5)

4 (2.2)

Groundhog

Shikoko

Marmota monax

1 (0.5)

1 (0.6)

Bat

Yelelit wof

Cynopterus sphinx

1 (0.5)

2 (1.1)

Birds

Vulture

Timb ansa

Gyps spp.

2 (1.0)

2 (1.1)

Pigeon

Ergib

Columba livia

1 (0.5)

3 (1.7)

Duck

Dackye

Duck spp.

1 (0.5)

1 (0.6)

Ostrich

Segon

Struthio camelus

3 (1.5)

3 (1.7)

Hen

Dero

Gallus gallus domesticus

3 (1.5)

4 (2.2)

Osprey

Gedie

Pandion haliaetus

1 (0.5)

2 (1.1)

Erckel’s francolin

Koki

Pternistis erckelii

2 (1.0)

2 (1.1)

Red billed oxpecker

Arechi

Buphagus erythrorhynchus

1 (0.5)

1 (0.6)

Bald eagle

Chilat

Haliaeetus leucocephalus

1 (0.5)

1 (0.6)

Reptiles

Snake

Ebab

Naja naja

3 (1.5)

6 (3.4)

Crocodile

Azo

Crocodylus spp.

3 (1.5)

5 (2.8)

Python

Zendo

Python spp.

4 (2.0)

7 (3.9)

Tortoise

Ali

Testudo graeca

1 (0.5)

2 (1.1)

Chamaleon

Esist

Chamaeleo chamaeleon

1 (0.5)

1 (0.6)

Lizard

Enshilalit

Lacertilia spp.

1 (0.5)

2 (1.1)

Fish

Fish

Assa

Any fish spp.

2 (1.0)

2 (1.1)

Arthropods

Scorpion

Ginti

Palamnaeus swammerdami

1 (0.5)

1 (0.6)

Bees

Nib

Apis mellifera

2 (1.0)

13 (7.3)

Termite (Queen)

Mist

All spp.

1 (0.5)

1 (0.6)

Field cricket

Fenta

Gryllus campestris

1 (0.5)

1 (0.6)

Gnat (small insect)

Tinign

All spp.

1 (0.5)

3 (1.7)

Bomble bee

Tinziza

Bombus spp.

1 (0.5)

3 (1.7)

Ticks

Meziger

All tick spp.

1 (0.5)

1 (0.6)

Annelid

Leeches

Alekit

All spp.

1 (0.5)

1 (0.6)

The traditional medicines were administrated via different modes. Eating, followed by drinking, tying, anointing, banding and massaging and, fumigation and heating were the major modes of application (Table 7). Solids and liquids were administered orally, whereas banding, heating, anointing, and massaging materials were applied to the skin. Medicinal fumes were allowed to enter the body via the nose, while some parts of animals like bones, skin, and teeth were believed to serve a healing purpose by tying them on the neck or other parts of the body. Most of the remedies did not involve the addition of substances like sugar, water, butter, honey, teff and millet flour, salt, spice, milk, egg, and coffee, but there were cases in which such additives were used.
Table 7

Methods of preparation of traditional medicinal in the study area

No.

Types of preparation

No. of preparation

Percentage (%)

1

Fresh

40

36.4

2

Cooking

26

23.6

3

Burning

15

13.6

4

Crushing/grinding

8

7.3

5

Wrapping

8

7.3

6

Powdering

7

6.4

7

Drying

6

5.4

Fidelity levels (FL) demonstrate the percentage of respondents claiming the use of a certain animal or its product for the same ailments. The honey of bee species (Apis mellifera) used to relieve wart, asthma, diarrhea, throat pain, stomachache, cough, and tuberculosis had the highest FL (n = 35, 97%) followed by meat of wild boar (Sus scrofa) to treat rheumatism, syphilis, stomachache, and malaria (n = 32, 89%), milk of goat (Capra aegagrus hircus) to treat eye disease, gastritis, headache, measles, tuberculosis, vomiting, and rheumatism (n = 27, 75%), teeth of the common warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) to treat toothache, wart, and rheumatism (n = 26, 72%), meat of the porcupine (Hystrix spp.) to treat swelling, tuberculosis, headache, AIDS, asthma, rheumatism, and gastritis (n = 24, 67%), and urine of Gazelle (Gazella spp.) to treat urination problems (n = 23, 64%). On the other hand, biles of common fox (Canis spp.) to cure eye problem and toothache (n = 2, 5.6%), the upper skin of the snake (Naja naja) to cure headache (n = 2, 5.6%), and the teeth of crocodile (Crocodylus spp.) to cure epilepsy (n = 2, 5.6%) have the lowest fidelity level value (Table 8).
Table 8

Medicinal animals, parts/products used, and their fidelity level

Animal group

Common name

Scientific name

Parts/product used

Ailments treated

No. of respondents claimed (n)

Fidelity level (FL)

Mode of applications

Mammals

Wild boar

Sus scrofa

Meat

Rheumatism, syphilis, stomachache, and malaria

32

89

Eating

Common warthog

Phacochoerus africanus

Teeth

Swelling, toothache, wart and rheumatism

26

72

Heating

Blood

Malaria, asthma, and rheumatism

12

33

Drinking

Skin

Herpes

4

11

Anointing

Bile

AIDS

8

22

Drinking

Horn

Swelling

4

11

Heating

Cow

Bos taurus

Butter

Malaria and paralysis

8

22

Eating

Milk

Rabies and TB

18

50

Drinking

Urine

Malaria

4

11

Drinking

Spleen

Anemia, malaria and trachoma

13

36

Eating

Omasum

Gastritis

4

11

Eating

Liver

Anemia

9

25

Eating

Blood

Wart

10

28

Drinking

Cheetah

Acinonyx jubatus

Skin

Hemorrhage

3

8

Tying

Camel

Camelus dromedarius

Milk

Headache, rheumatism, malaria and diarrhea

20

56

Drinking

Porcupine

Hystrix spp.

Meat

Swelling, TV, headache, AIDS, asthma, rheumatism, gastritis, and hypertension

24

67

Eating

Bile

Asthma/diabetes, stomach scramble

11

31

Drinking

Stomach/intestine

Diarrhea and diabetes

7

19

Eating

Thorn/spine

Wound and broken leg

14

39

Tying

Liver

Diabetes disease

3

8

Eating

Human

Homo sapiens

Stool

Wart

3

8

Anointing

Donkey

Equus africanus asinus L.

Milk

Measles, cough, trachoma/rabies, and internal problem

22

61

Drinking

Rat

Rattus spp.

Meat

Intestinal disease

5

14

Eating

Foot

Nightmare

4

11

Tying

Blood

Wart

6

17

Anointing

Spotted hyna

Crocuta crocuta

Bone

Epilepsy and bad spirit

12

33

Tying

Skin

Protection from evil eye and during labor

9

25

Tying

Bile

Erythroblastosis and nightmare

8

22

Tying

Liver

Infection of skin

5

14

Banding

Skin

For communicable diseases and bad spirit

11

31

Tying

Meat

For swollen sex organ, epilepsy and anemia

5

14

Eating

Gazelle

Gazella spp.

Urine

For urination problem

23

64

Drinking

Bile

Syphilis

 

0

Drinking

Goat

Capra aegagrus hircus L.

Milk

Eye disease, gastritis, wound, headache, measles, TB, eye disorder, vomiting, snake poison, and rheumatism

27

75

Drinking

Fat

Wound and Toothache

16

44

Banding

Liver

Trachoma

7

19

Massaging

Butter

Headache and ear infection

8

22

Massaging

Hippopotamus

Hippopotamus amphibius

Bone

Breast swelling, sunburn, and body fracture

6

17

Banding, drinking

Pig

Sus scrofa

Meat

Rheumatism and headache

4

11

Eating

Blood

Skin infection

4

11

Anointing

Monitor lizard

Varanus spp.

Skin

Infant communicable disease

6

17

Tying

Sheep

Ovis aries

Milk

Malaria

4

11

Drinking

Olive baboon

Papio anubis

Hind skin/skin

Broken/misplaced bone and wound/burning

9

25

Tying

Meat

Rabies prevention for dogs and HIV/AIDS

13

36

Eating

Bile, meat

AIDS

6

17

Eating, drinking

Cat

Felis domesticus

Skin

Spiritual problem

3

8

Tying

Elephant

Elephas maximus

Bile

Kidney failure

3

8

Drinking

Bone

Herpes and diarrhea

6

17

Massaging

Ivory

Herpes

3

8

Anointing

Urine

Herpes, urination disorder

3

8

Drinking

Skin

Herpes, back pain, skin wound, and trachoma

6

17

Anointing

Bear

Melursus ursinus

Bile

Epilepsy

4

11

Drinking

Vervet monkey

Chlorocebus pygerythrus

Meat

For STDs, anemia for children

3

8

Eating

Common fox

Canis spp.

Brain tissue and meat

Epilepsy, mental disorder

4

11

Eating/drinking

Bile

Toothache, eye problem, and internal problem

2

5.6

Drinking

Giraffe

Giraffa camelopardalis

Urine and milk

TB

3

8

Drinking

Dog

Canis familaries

Bone

Epilepsy

3

8

Tying

Ethiopian hare

Lepus fagani

Excreta

Soars/wound

4

11

Anointing

Meat

Cattle disorder, epilepsy

8

22

Fumigation, drinking

Fat

Wart

5

14

Anointing

Groundhog

Marmota monax

Meat

For coughing and fattening baby

7

19

Eating

Bat

Cynopterus sphinx

Meat

Hepatitis, mental disorder

21

58

Eating

Birds

Vulture

Gyps spp.

Leg

Epilepsy

3

8

Fumigation

Meat

Mental disorder

4

11

Eating

Pigeon

Columba livia

Meat

Mental disorder, body fracture, and heart failure

12

33

Eating

Duck

Duck spp.

Meat

TB

4

11

Eating

Ostrich

Struthio camelus

Meat and egg

Muscle strain and broken bone and paralysis

4

11

Massaging, anointing

Hen

Gallus gallus domesticus

Whole body

For physical injury and wound

9

25

Drinking

Liver and fat

Swelling wound, pneumonia

16

44

Eating

Osprey

Pandion haliaetus

Bone

Epilepsy, body fracture

5

14

Tying

Erckel’s francolin

Pternistis erckelii

Meat

Internal problem

3

8

Eating

Bile

STDS

3

8

Drinking

Red billed Oxpecker

Buphagus erythrorhynchus

Blood

Skin fungus

4

11

Anointing

Bald eagle

Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Blood

Skin fungus

4

11

Anointing

Reptiles

Snake

Naja naja

Coat

Headache

2

5.6

Tying

Venom

Malaria and snake bite

4

11

Anointing

Head

Diarrhea, evil eye, and headache

6

17

Tying

Crocodile

Crocodylus spp.

Bile

Coughing, TB, teeth rheumatism

4

11

Drinking Anointing

Bone

Communicable disease

3

8

Tying

Teeth

Epilepsy

2

5.6

Tying

Python

Python spp.

Bone

Rabies and swelling

3

8

Tying and Banding

Tail and bone

Cancer and swelling

3

8

Banding

Fat

Wound and ear disease

7

19

Banding,

Meat

Rabies, foot crack, and ear disorder

13

36

Eating, anointing

Tortoise

Testudo graeca

Teeth

Swelling

3

8

Heating

Shell

Trypanosomiasis, nose bleeding

6

17

Fumigation

Chameleon

Chamaeleo chamaeleon

Whole body

Cancer, body fattening

6

17

Tying

Lizard

Lacertilia spp.

Whole body

Dry cough and anemia

3

8

Drinking

Fish

Fish

Any fish spp.

Meat

Rheumatism

4

11

Eating

Bile

Eye disorder

3

8

Eating

Arthropods

Scorpion

Palamnaeus swammerdami

Meat

Scorpion bite

6

17

Massaging

Bee

Apis mellifera

Honey

Wart, asthma, diarrhea, throat pain, stomachache, cough, TB, mumps, heart failure

35

97

Eating, drinking

Larvae

Stomach disorder

3

8

Drinking

Termite (Queen)

All spp.

Whole body

Fattening of livestock

3

8

Eating

Field cricket

Gryllus campestris

Whole body

Eye disease

3

8

Eating

Gnat (small insect)

All spp.

Honey

Stomachache, eye disorder, and coughing

13

36

Eating

Bumble bee

Bombus spp.

Honey

Coughing, malaria, and stomachache

3

8

Eating

Ticks

All tick spp.

Blood

Fungal disease on the skin

3

8

Anointing

Annelid

Leeches

All spp.

Head

Rheumatism

3

8

Massaging

Discussion

In Ethiopia, 70% of human and 90% of livestock population depend on traditional medicine [18]. In this study, 51 animal species and their products were collected and identified that were believed to be a cure/prevention of over 36 kinds of ailments. Other studies reported in Ethiopia showed that approximately 23 animals and/or their parts were identified to be used in traditional medicines in Degu tribes in Tigray region [22]. Sixteen species of medicinal animals were collected and identified for treating 18 different human ailments in the Kafta-Humera District, Northern Ethiopia [24]. The study conducted by Borah and Prasad recorded a total of 44 different species of animals which are used for the treatments of 40 different ailments [21]. In South Africa, Whiting et al. identified 147 medicinal vertebrate species representing 60 mammal species, 33 reptile species, 53 bird species and 1 amphibian species [12]. Oliveira et al. also described 23 animal species that used as traditional medicines [25]. Of a total 36 vertebrate species used in the treatment of ailments and disease, mammals comprised 50%; they were birds, fishes, reptile, and amphibians [26].

The inhabitants of the study area were found to use different parts/products of animals for the treatment of different kinds of ailments. Animals and the products derived from their body organs constitute part of the inventory of medicinal substances [10]. Meyer-Rochow also reported different organs of invertebrate animals used as traditional medicines [11].

In this study, parts/products of medicinal animals were grouped under meat/fat, blood, visceral organ, whole body, excreta, bone/teeth, and product categories and these categories were similar to ones reported by Haileselasie [22]. Other researches also stated that wild and domestic animals and their by-products such as hooves, skins, bones, feathers, and tusks are important ingredients in the preparation of curative, protective, and preventive medicine [79].

Preparations varied according to ailment and involved cooking, burning, crushing/grinding, wrapping, powdering, and drying [11]. In this study, egg is considered as one of the products of animals. The egg of ostrich (Struthio camelu) was mentioned as a traditional medicine in Table 8. It is used to treat muscle strain, broken bone, and paralysis. Gidey Yirga et al. showed medicinal animals have various methods of preparation for different types of ailments like crushing, powdering, squeezing, direct use, and cooking [27]. Haileselasie reported that animals are used as whole or body parts or by-products like milk, blood, organ, flesh, antler, and feathers for the treatments of different kinds of human ailments including cough, asthma, tuberculosis, paralysis, earache, herpes, weakness, and muscular pain [22].

This study showed that traditional medicines were administrated by drinking, eating, anointing, tying, branding, fumigation, and massaging. The study conducted by Gidey Yirga et al. showed most of traditional medicines were administrated orally and through dermal. Fumigating materials such as smokes were also entering into the body using nasal opening to treat different ailments. Some parts of animals such as bones, skin, and teeth were believed to be medicine by tying on the neck or other parts of the body [27].

The majority of the remedy preparations did not have additive substance while the remaining had different additive substances like sugar, water, butter, honey, teff and millet flour salt, spice, milk, egg, and coffee. The result of this study is similar to research conducted by Gidey Yirga et al. [27]. Haileselasie stated that many animals were used for the treatment of multiple ailments singly or in combinations with other animal products or/and plants like seeds, flowers, latex (resins in some cases), and roots [22].

The honey of bee species (Apis mellifera) is known to relieve wart, asthma, diarrhea, throat pain, stomachache, cough, and tuberculosis and achieves the highest fidelity level, whereas biles of common fox (Canis spp.) to cure eye problem and toothache, upper coats of snake (Naja naja) to cure headache, and teeth of crocodile (Crocodylus spp.) to cure epilepsy have the lowest fidelity level. On the other hand, Jaroli et al. stated that the uses of animals that are commonly known by the Garasiya informants have higher fidelity levels than less common known species [27]. He reported the cooked flesh of bat (Cynopterus sphinx) used to relieved cough and fever has the highest FL followed by blood of pigeon (Columba livia) to treat paralysis and urine of cow (Bos taurus) for wound healing, while the flesh of the pig (Sus scrofa) to relieve muscular pain and elephant (Elephas maximus) for pimples have the lowest fidelity level.

The finding of this study suggested that the traditional zootherapeutic remedial measures followed by the native people of Metema Woreda plays an important role in their primary healthcare. The documentation of this indigenous knowledge on animal-based medicines should be very helpful in the formulations of strategies for sustainable management and conservation of bio-resource as well as providing potential for novel drug discoveries [21].

Conclusions

The result shows that animals and their parts/products occupy key positions in the traditional medicine and medical practices to treat different ailments. Whole bodies or parts/products of traditional medicinal animals were used as a medicine. It was obvious that the members of the local communities studied possessed considerable knowledge related to preparation, administration, parts/products used, ingredients added, and other issues of traditional remedies. However, efforts to document, conserve, and manage the indigenous knowledge and skill were very scarce, and important indigenous knowledge is getting lost together with the elders and experts. Hence, it is important to document, conserve, and manage the indigenous knowledge, and further research should be done to test the products scientifically for product development.

Declarations

Acknowledgements

We are very much grateful to all the respondents who shared their traditional zootherapeutic knowledge; without their contribution, this study would have been impossible. Furthermore, we would like to extend our gratitude to the College of Science, Bahir Dar University, which supplied laboratory room and required materials. We also thank Metema Woreda administrators and kebele leaders for their willingness to participate in the study. Finally, we would like to say thank you to both two reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions for the improvements of this manuscript.

Availability of data and materials

The data used and analyzed during the current study is available from the corresponding author on a reasonable request, without disclosure of the interviewees.

Declarations

We confirm that this work is original and has not been published elsewhere, nor is it currently under consideration for publication elsewhere.

Authors’ contributions

FA, SA, and MA proposed the research idea and collected the data from the respondents. FA organized the data in computer, did the analysis, interpretation, and identification, and wrote the manuscript. SA and MA revised the manuscript for scientific content and did the language check. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Ethics approval and consent to participate

The ethics approval is not applicable. Written consent by the authors was obtained before the interviews. We explained the objectives of the research to each respondent, when we also had a chance to answer questions and clear doubts. We assured them that their information was anonymous and that it was only for research purposes.

Consent for publication

This manuscript does not contain any individual person’s data, and further consent for publication is not required.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Department of Biology, College of Science, Bahir Dar University, Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

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Copyright

© The Author(s). 2018

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