The baobab’s silence

Roberto García Roa [Zoom lens 100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM; 1/200 s; f7.1; ISO 1600; manual; no flash.]

Legend has it that, as punishment for its unrelenting arrogance, an angry god decided to turn the baobab upside down, leaving its roots exposed and its green crown buried under the ground. This could not be further from the truth: the disturbing morphology of baobab trees is the result of adapting to the harsh environmental conditions they face. These giants can reach 30 meters in height and have trunks of over 10 meters in diameter. Recent research indicates that their life expectancy can exceed 1,000 years, with some specimens estimated to be between 2,000 and 2,450 years old. Limited in distribution to certain areas of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and Australia, baobabs face modern challenges that could compromise their survival. The loss of habitats due to agriculture, water scarcity, disease, and the disappearance of seed disseminators are some of the most dramatic factors. However, the sudden death of some of Africa’s largest and most long-standing baobabs may be associated with changes in environmental conditions caused in part by climate change. These millennia-old inhabitants are witnesses of an uncertain present, dressed in mysticism in a landscape in which their elegant silhouette is exploited as a vital source by a multitude of species. Without the use of filters on the lens, with a selective approach to the baobab outline and taking advantage of the natural sunset light, my objective with this photograph taken in Madagascar was to highlight the powerful presence of these silent inhabitants in the Malagasy plains.

Researcher in evolutionary biology at Lund University (Sweden) and nature and conservation photographer. Among other awards, his photographic work has won the British Ecological Society’s Capturing Ecology competition three times.