A poisonous plant which makes sheep behave like ‘heroin addicts’ is turning them suicidal by causing them to bash their own skulls open on rocks.
The darling pea is a highly addictive plant which is killing the farm animals across the region, making them act ‘drunk’ and out of control – leading to their death.
Local veterinarian Bob McKinnon said: “They lose weight to start with and then get staggery, the progression gets worse, they get uncoordinated and depressed, they don’t know where their feet are.”
He also said they displayed symptoms of ‘staring eyes’, ‘head pressing’ and ‘muscle tremors’ until they eventually ‘just go to a post and bang their head on it till they crack their heads open’.
Mr McKinnon added: “It’s like dealing with a thousand heroin addicts.”
Farmers Stephen and Louise Knight have lost 800 sheep to the deadly plant, which is from the Swainsona family of desert peas which is native to Australia.
It attacks by building up toxins in the animals who graze on it for extended periods then attacks an enzyme in their metabolism – and cripples the animal’s central nervous system.
Mrs Knight said: “It was just devastating, they weren’t there when we went to get them.
“The fire was a distressing thing to have happen, we lost so many stock, fences, pasture – and then for it to come back with a terrible noxious plant like this, it’s awful and very distressing.”
There is no known cure for the affliction, other than weaning the animals off the plant.