Target: Minister of Environment, Ecology, and Forests (Madagascar), Johanita Ndahimananjara
Goal: Protect the rare baobab trees from destruction, along with all the wildlife that depend on it for their existence.
Baobabs (also known as the “Tree of Life”) are magnificent and alien-looking plants, known for their disproportionately-massive trunks, which store large amounts of water. Six of the nine known species of baobab are native to the African nation of Madagascar, where the trees bear important cultural significance; provide food, materials, and medicine to local peoples; and serve as shelters and food sources for native wildlife populations. However, the tree is facing grave danger.
Despite a 2003 proclamation by the president of Madagascar vowing to extend the range of protected wild areas in the country, the trees remain endangered to this day, and are still being cut down. Clearing of forest for agricultural land and unsustainable harvesting of the baobab for rope and medicines has lead to its terminal decline.
This destruction comes with consequences for animals which depend on the tree for survival. This is especially true for Madagascar’s fruit bats, some species of which are already threatened or endangered. Baobab are also known to be ideal nesting sites for a variety of birds, including hornbills, kestrels, parrots, eagles, vultures, and storks.
Humans, too, are affected by the decline of the baobabs: The trees’ trunks provide vital water storage in arid regions of Africa; their leaves, and the ashes of their bark and seeds, are an excellent source of natural fertilizer; and they provide soothing shade during the hot months of the year.
Madagascar is one of the most bio-diverse nations in the world, with 90% of its wildlife found nowhere else on the planet. It is also one of the world’s poorest, leading Madagascans to depend heavily on the land around them—and often leveling it for agriculture in the process—in order to make ends meet. Yet, despite any short-term economic gains, over time, the destruction of biodiversity only brings destitution for humans and the ecosystem alike.
Dear Minister Ndahimananjara,
Baobab trees are important to both the people and animals of you country, serving as sacred cultural symbols, sources of food and materials, and protectors of biodiversity. They also remain a traditional form of water security and provide agricultural benefits to farmers in Madagascar.
Today most baobabs in Madagascar are threatened with extinction, primarily from overharvesting and land use changes.
Please pressure your ministry and government to do more to protect the fragile baobabs from destruction—including the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices—so that they can continue to provide for the wildlife and people of Madagascar alike for ages to come.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Quinn Norton