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  The Saola and the Araceae
From: ted.held at us.henkel.com on 2006.12.15 at 07:36:58(14943)
This is a distraction from our usual
fare, but I saw an interesting article on the little-known saola, an exotic
bovine. The current Science magazine (December 1 cover date) contains a
picture and written reference of an unidentified Araceae, which the rare
animal is believed to eat. The saola, also known as the Vu Quang ox, is
the last new large animal to have been discovered. It was unknown to science
before 1992. Although they say it is related to the cow, it looks more
like an antelope. The few remaining individuals live in Vietnam and Laos.
The article contains some interesting information on the animal and its
bleak prospects, but nothing about the aroid save the following:

"The forest ecologist finds safe
footing on the slick slope and grabs a handful of broad, dark-green Araceae
leaves. 'Saola like to eat these," [Do] Tuoc says. 'At least, we have
seen bite marks.'"

There is a photograph of Mr. Tuoc holding
some nondescript taro-like plants in each hand (fibrous roots, perhaps
30 cm petiole height).

The saola diet is unknown, save for
the hints that it might like tucking into a luscious aroid. Much of the
remainder of the article is a discussion, pro and con, of the idea of attempting
to clone the beast in an attempt to preserve it.

Anyone having a liking for extremely
rare animals can e-mail me separately and I will send them a pirated scan
of the article. I don't think anyone will mind this violation of copyright
as long as we don't sell copies.

Ted.

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From: "D. Christopher Rogers" <crogers at ecoanalysts.com> on 2006.12.15 at 09:27:05(14944)
Dear Ted,

I know
that few mammals eat aroid leaves due to calcium oxalate crystals (likened to
eating a handful of tiny needles) or various chemical defenses (see http://www.ivis.org/advances/Beasley/cpt13c/ivis.pdf
for example).

In the paper:
Dung, V.V. et
al. 1994. Discovery and conservation of the Vu Quang ox in Vietnam. Oryx 28:16,
the saola is reported browsing on figs and other riparian shrubs.

I am curious as
to what aroid was observed with “bite marks”, and whether they were bite marks
actually from this animal.

Happy days,

Christopher

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From: "Peter Boyce" <botanist at malesiana.com> on 2006.12.15 at 21:00:43(14946)
Hi TedWas interested to see your posting
on the saola and aroids. In the late 1990's I was involved with a UNDP/Lao
Forest Department project training parataxonomists in the northern part of the
Lao PDR as part of a NTFP project funded by UNDP & Danida. While in Lao I
met up with Bill Robichaud, then of WSC, who was studying saola and was one of
the first westerners to successfully get photographs from camera traps. Bill
asked me to identify plants that he had collected from saola grazing sites and
these proved to Schismatoglottis calyptrata (Roxb.) Zoll. &
Moritzi, a variable and widespread species and is common in everwet forest in
IndoChina (its full range is from tropical northeastern Myanmar to New
Guinea).It now seems likely that the saola's primary range is the remote
and very precipitous, not to say very wet mountains along the border between
Bolikhamxay and Nghe An provinces in Lao & Vietnam respectively with
increasing evidence that it most saola and saola habitat in Laos probably lie
outside of Nakai-Nam Theun, in areas of Bolikhamxay Province (and to a lesser
extent Savannakhet and Xekong Provinces) the area (Nakai-Nam Theun)
traditionally considered its main rangeReverting to the aroid aspect,
here in Sarawak leaves of Schismatoglottis motleyana (Schott) Engl. are
occasionally sold as a vegetable. used to make ulam and are favoured for the
astringent/sour taste they impart. In Sabah I have seen leaves of another
Schismatoglottis (possibly S. venusta A.Hay) sold for similar
purposes.

Peter

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