Over the last few years, the number of Baobabs that have been felled by elephants in Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe’s second largest national park, has increased at an alarming rate. Unless steps are taken to prevent this, almost all Baobab trees near or along the Runde River will be a part of history.
Introduction to Baobabs & Gonarezhou National Park
Under natural conditions, Baobab trees live for thousands of years and are an integral part of the landscape and serve an important function within the ecosystems in which they exist.
In Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe’s second largest national park, located in the south east of the country, there are some extremely impressive Baobabs which are a major feature of the park. They provide shelter and a source of food for many species and here, white-backed vultures, red-billed buffalo weavers, brown-headed & grey-headed parrots and mottled & bohm’s spinetails nest almost exclusively in Baobabs. Countless generations of animals and birds have benefitted from these trees over the centuries, however, in recent times the natural balance of this vast wilderness has shifted, and the future for baobabs,is not particularly rosy…
The Current Situation in Gonarezhou
Thanks to extremely successful conservation efforts, Gonarezhou is one of few protected areas in Africa where elephant populations have increased substantially in the last decade. The flip side to this success is a set of environmental issues as elephants begin to impact more heavily on their food resources resulting in habitat change, which has a domino effect and impacts on many other species.
Baobab trees are rich in moisture and sugar and are a favourite source of food for elephants. More critically, however, is that owing to the fibrous, soft structure of Baobabs, elephants are able to gouge huge chunks out of their stems with their tusks and this is where the probem lies…
Over the last few years, the number of Baobabs that have been felled by elephants has increased at an alarming rate and unless steps are taken to prevent this, almost all Baobab trees growing along the Runde River will be a part of history.
A Solution: Rocking Baobabs
In August and October 2015, the problem was discussed between a number of ecologists and park management and a decision was taken to experiment with rocks as a means of protecting baobabs from over utilisation by elephants. Elephants do not like to stand for any length of time on an unstable substrate, and so placing a single layer of large rocks from the base of the tree out to a distance of 3 -4 metres away seemed the most logical approach to try. The park has no shortage of boulders, however, doing this is not cheap as rocks are heavy and collecting, transporting and putting them into position requires a tractor, hydraulic trailer and a team of willing labourers.
How you can help the Gonarezhou Conservation Trust?
Depending on the size of the tree and the distance from a plentiful source of rocks, the cost of ROCKING a single Baobab is US$150 – US$300 and is made up largely in transport and labour costs. The project is being overseen by the Gonarezhou Conservation Trust and any donations made to this cause will be used specifically for this project.
Donations of any amount can be made to:
Bank Name: Barclays Bank of Zimbabwe Limited
Bank Address: Chiredzi Branch, 59 Chilonga Drive, Box 29, Chiredzi, Zimbabwe
SWIFT code: BARCZWHX
Branch code: 2595
Account Holder Name: Frankfurt Zoological Society of 1858
Account Holder Address: Gonarezhou Conservation Project, Private Bag 7003, Chiredzi, Zimbabwe
Reference: Rocking Baobabs
Image Credits: Ant Kaschula & Kit Boey