Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tales from the rain forests

Why the termite will not attack a geronggang tree (Cratoxylon sp.)

Once upon a time, there was a great flood. All the animals in the rain forests were affected and each tried to seek refuge in whatever ways they could. The termites were no exception and tried to seek protection from different trees but to no avail. Finally, the geronggang tree agreed to give protection to the termites and thus saved the termites from the flood. After the great flood, the termites were ever grateful to the geronggang tree. That is the reason why termites will never attack the geronggang tree to this day. The moral of the story is: one good turn deserves another.

How the Cobra obtained its venom

Once upon a time, there was a tyrant ruler in northern Sarawak. One day his subjects decided to present something offensive to the ruler to teach him a lesson. They decided to present him a pig's head. When the ruler saw the offensive gift, he immediately cursed and sweared the gift bearer into a snake. However, with the help of the ipoh tree (Antiaris toxicaria) by biting on its bark, the snake was able to kill the ruler using the newly acquired venom to the delight of the oppressed people. To this day, the cobra still has its venom.

Notes on Ipoh tree from wikipedia:

Antiaris toxicaria (Upas or Ipoh) is an evergreen tree in the family Moraceae, native to southeastern Asia, from India and Sri Lanka east to southern China, the Philippines and Fiji; closely related species also occur in eastern Africa. It produces a highly poisonous latex.

It is a large tree, growing to 25-40 m tall, with a trunk up to 40 cm diameter, often buttressed at the base, with whitish bark. The leaves are elliptic to obovate, 7-19 cm long and 3-6 cm broad. The fruit is a red or purple drupe 2 cm in diameter. The latex, present in the bark and foliage, contains a cardiac glycoside named antiarin, which is used as an arrow poison in blowpipes among the tribes of Borneo.

How the python lost its venom

Once there was a headman whose daughter was getting married. He decided to throw a lavish feast for the occasion and invited all the animals in the land for the feast (Gawai). After the great feast, all the animals left the party one by one except the python. The python decided to stay on for some drinking and merry-making session. After all the tuak drinking session, the python was intoxicated. The python started to vomit and its venom disappeared. Today, python is the only snake without any venom in the rain forests.

Notes on Borneo python from wikipedia:

The Borneo Python

There are two species of pythons on Borneo, the more well known of which is the bigger, in fact arguably the biggest and definitely the longest snake in the whole world, Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus). The other species is Python breitensteini the endemic Borneo Python, a.k.a. Borneo Short-tailed or Borneo Blood Python. It was until quite recently regarded as a sub-species ot the Sumatran Short-tailed Python and carried the name Python curtus breitensteini.

The Borneo Python is a short and stout snake seldom exceeding 1.5 metre (5 feet) in length. It is non-venomous but can give a nasty bite and some individuals are more agressive than others! Some will tolerate handling without trying to bite while some, even baby ones, will strike readily! They are just as common as reticulated pythons, and unfortunately, as they move more slowly they are more often caught (for the pot!) and more are seen as roadkills!

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