Sunday, 26 February 2012

Do deer nibble on mangrove roots?

Sundarbans NP, Bangladesh

Chital or white spotted deer Axis axis together with wild boars Sus scofa were the largest land animals along the river margins. At low tide in particular we could often see the deer grazing by the margins. What were they eating? Things left by the tide or the ubiquitous mangrove roots?
 So when we had a crack of dawn activity on land I decided to have a look. There were plenty of deer in the area.
A shy herd foraging at low tide
Sorry, it is a very bad picture but it gives an idea of the habitat. No grass.
Some mangrove roots had clearly been nibbled by someone, see below.
Mangrove roots showing clear signs of grazing
And another example.

Mangrove root missing a  huge chunk of bark
 These were roots of the blinding mangrove Excoecaria agallocha, gewa in Bangladesh, and they looked rather soft compared to roots from other trees. By the way, in a mangrove an experienced person can tell a tree by its exposed root system.
Blinding mangrove was a rather common small tree along the river margins and the beaches and we were strongly warned to keep clear of its leaves. It belongs to the Euphorbiaceae family which is well known for sometimes causing allergies with its milky sap.

And this raises some questions:
Were the roots poisonous in any way? Or have the grazing animals acquired some immunity?

Spotted deer are known to forage on fruits and leaves washed by the tide and I have found very nice video illustrating just that. Click here to view it.
However, I have found no reference to their nibbling of mangrove roots but deer in general aren’t averse to bark... 
Do let me know what you think about this, please.

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