Iconic Baobab Protection

The Baobab is a long-lived tree that is admired throughout Africa, with very large Baobabs living over 1000 years! They play an important environmental role but are also valued as a source of food, water, health remedy, shelter and are revered in superstition and legend. They are stunning trees and their beauty has been admired by local people and visitors alike. However, there is increasing concern about the conservation status of Baobabs. The impact of fires, elephants and climate change threaten the survival of these majestic trees.

Elephants Without Borders aerial survey team has been documenting Baobabs and subsequent damage, throughout Northern Botswana over the last 9 years. There has been increasing concern that both fires and elephants are having on the regeneration of this vulnerable tree species and believe the damage caused is a direct impact of increased temperatures due to climate change.

To help address this, in 2018, EWB began an experimental study using an organic oil mixture, which is a natural deterrent for elephants in reducing browse damage. This natural deterrent has been developed to not only deter elephants and other herbivores from damaging the trunks, but also to encourage regrowth. The first set of trees covered were the iconic Baobabs of Savuti in Chobe National Park. The project’s success is being duplicated and recently continued our experimental study to help save Baobabs further across Botswana.

The Western side of Chobe National Park Riverfront has many mature Baobabs and most of these have suffered browsing damage from elephants. To help protect them, EWB, in partnership with the Department of National Parks, embarked on an exercise to spray these trees. A total of 26 trees were sprayed, photographed and basic measurements were taken. Most were classified as ‘large’ in size, and damage varied, being severe in some cases, but it was encouraging to see regrowth in many of them. During the exercise one dead Baobab was seen, falling recently after continual damage to the trunk. Helping to protect these trees is especially important after the poor rains this year, and the increased pressure they will experience through the dry season. We hope that regular spraying and monitoring will help protect these amazing trees from further damage and allow them to recover, so future generations can enjoy their beauty and value. 

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