Africa's oldest baobab trees are dying

In this file photo taken on October 26, 2010 Maasai people gather under a baobab tree at Oltukai, 100 km west of Arusha, Tanzania, during a political rally organised by the incumbent Monduli Member of Parliament. (AFP)
Updated 13 June 2018

Africa's oldest baobab trees are dying

PARIS: Some of Africa’s oldest and biggest baobab trees — a few dating all the way back to the ancient Greeks — have abruptly died, wholly or in part, in the past decade, researchers said Monday.
The trees, aged between 1,100 and 2,500 years and some as wide as a bus is long, may have fallen victim to climate change, the team speculated.
“We report that nine of the 13 oldest... individuals have died, or at least their oldest parts/stems have collapsed and died, over the past 12 years,” they wrote in the scientific journal Nature Plants, describing “an event of an unprecedented magnitude.”
“It is definitely shocking and dramatic to experience during our lifetime the demise of so many trees with millennial ages,” said the study’s co-author Adrian Patrut of the Babes-Bolyai University in Romania.
Among the nine were four of the largest African baobabs.
While the cause of the die-off remains unclear, the researchers “suspect that the demise of monumental baobabs may be associated at least in part with significant modifications of climate conditions that affect southern Africa in particular.”
Further research is needed, said the team from Romania, South Africa and the United States, “to support or refute this supposition.”
Between 2005 and 2017, the researchers probed and dated “practically all known very large and potentially old” African baobabs — more than 60 individuals in all.
Collating data on girth, height, wood volume, and age, they noted the “unexpected and intriguing fact” that most of the very oldest and biggest trees died during the study period.
All were in southern Africa — Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, and Zambia.
The baobab is the biggest and longest-living flowering tree, according to the research team. It is found naturally in Africa’s savannah region, and outside the continent in tropical areas to which it was introduced.
It is a strange-looking plant, with branches resembling gnarled roots reaching for the sky, giving it an upside-down look.
The iconic tree can live to be 3,000 years old, according to the website of the Kruger National Park in South Africa, a natural baobab habitat.

“One ancient hollow baobab tree in Zimbabwe is so large that up to 40 people can shelter inside its trunk,” says the park.
“Various baobabs have been used as a shop, a prison, a house, a storage barn, and a bus shelter.”
The tree serves as a massive store of water, and bears fruit that feeds animals and humans.
Its leaves are boiled and eaten as an accompaniment similar to spinach, or used to make traditional medicines, while the bark is pounded and woven into rope, baskets, cloth, and waterproof hats.
The purpose of the study was to learn how the trees get so enormous.
The researchers used radiocarbon dating to analyze samples taken from different parts of each tree’s trunk.
They found that the trunk of the baobab grows from not one but multiple core stems.
According to the Kruger Park, baobabs are “very difficult to kill.”
“They can be burnt, or stripped of their bark, and they will just form new bark and carry on growing,” it states.
“When they do die, they simply rot from the inside and suddenly collapse, leaving a heap of fibers.”
Of the ten trees listed by the study authors, four died completely, meaning all their multiple stems toppled and died together.
The others saw the death of one or several parts.
The oldest tree by far, of which all the stems collapsed in 2010/11, was the Panke tree in Zimbabwe, estimated to have existed for 2,500 years.
The biggest, dubbed Holboom, was from Namibia. It stood 30.2 meters (99 feet) tall and had a girth of 35.1 m.
Arguably the most famous baobab, called Chapman, was a declared a national monument in central Botswana, bearing the carved initials of explorer David Livingstone.
The tree named after South African hunter James Chapman, who visited it in 1852, saw all six its stems topple simultaneously on January 7, 2016 where it had stood for some 1,400 years.
Other than the oldest and biggest, the research team observed that many other mature baobabs had died.
The deaths were not caused by an epidemic, they wrote, with Patrut adding: “there were no signs of disease.”

Rumors intensify as Football superstars meet at Salt Bae restaurant in Dubai

Updated 2 min 48 sec ago

Rumors intensify as Football superstars meet at Salt Bae restaurant in Dubai

  • Lionel Messi and Paul Pogba met and talked at steakhouse in Dubai, which is owned by the famous Salt Bae
  • Both were in Dubai during the international break

DUBAI: Football fanatics were going crazy over an unexpected meeting between Lionel Messi and Paul Pogba in Salt Bae’s steakhouse in Dubai.

Manchester United midfielder Pogba, who last week withdrew from a game due to a thigh injury, was enjoying a break in Dubai when he bumped into Barcelona legend Messi.

Pogba posted a video of himself enjoying a lavish steak meal at the Nusr-Et in Dubai, as Salt Bae performed his iconic steak-slicing act. He reportedly sat with Messi, as they both had a “deep conversation,” according to local Manchester media.

Their meeting was met with both excitement and speculations about the possible transfer of Pogba to Barcelona, as the 25-year-old struggles with his relationship with Man United’s Jose Mourinho.

Barcelona center-back Gerard Pique recently showed excitement at the potential transfer.

“We will be happy to have him here, obviously. We want the best players to be at Barcelona,” Pique said.

The Premier League resumes next weekend and Pogba is looking forward to be back, as Manchester United’s medical department had said his injury wasn’t serious.