What conservation message is in there for you?
“Plants are doing it! We should too” said Navi after discovering in “life among thorns” (a WWF Madagascar publication) that the flora of spiny forest has much more than just its beauty to offer. With very little split branches, the spiny forest has a very special method of conserving water. Almost everywhere in the south of Madagascar there is the spiny forest. There are 9 plant genera of the spiny forest in the eco-region and this gives the south of Madagascar a special touch of uniqueness.
Photo of spiny spacy forest 9 Kilometers from Beheloke
Living in a very difficult climate with less than 400mm3 of rain each year, the spiny forests in the southern region of Madagascar are reputed for their impressive water conservation technique. With a wide variety of succulent plants, the spiny forest can conserve water for an impressively long period of time. It suffices to have little drops of rain and the plant will do its best to store all that drops on it and its entourage. It leaves for years with just little water from collected. Across the Mahafaly plateau there is a wide variety of spiny trees.
A special genre of the spiny trees can be found south-west of Toliara, at Beheloke. Known as SAMANTA in Malagasy, the white euphorbia tree also called euphorbia stenoclada (scientific name) is one of the different species of spiny trees that are found here in Beheloke. There exists 2000 species of this plant in Madagascar. The softness of its elements makes it very useful for some people in Beheloke, they use it to fabricate fine arts, dugout canoes and at times, paddles. Inside the tree there is a fine white liquid which makes the plant very special in the eyes of man. Residents here use it to gum objects at times for fuel. Its branches serve as food to goats, sheep and cows. It also serves as a habitat for many other animals. Small snakes, birds and spiders take this plant as their place for food, refuge and above all, homes.
9 kilometers from Beheloke at AMBELAILALEKE is a forest called “Rombe”, which “signifies wood for construction” said Marc, a local from the region. This forest covers more than 100 Kilometers but uses less than 20 000 liters of water to proliferate. This amount of water is used by jean makers in developed nations to fabricate a single jean. The amount of water is large enough to support more forests to grow in this region and elsewhere in the world. It has almost half the different kind of spiny flora species found in the south West of Toliara.
Besides being among the most famous plants in the world, the Flora of spiny forest does not only bring to men its rich biodiversity. There is life in it and some lessons to learn from the way it leads its life. The Baobabs the most famous of them all is used by some people for medicine, tradition and its trunks are used to stock water.
After observing these fine plants and their magnificent technique of water management, it is obvious; we learn several lessons judging from varied perspectives. We tend to understand there is no need to take from the earth more than 50% of what it can produce when we send 42% of our canned foods to the dump; meanwhile one child dies every 6 seconds in Africa because of hunger. The spiny forest does not receive much rainfall yet it keeps its habitat beautiful for humans and for other animals that depens on it. The heavily dense forests like the Congo basin and the tropics are losing more than 3 important plants, birds and animal species every day due to human consumption and the disastrous ways in which we take from it. Gorillas, elephants, tigers, lions, rhinos and other animals have not only lost their natural habitats, but are threatened to extinction today because of illegal trades and human’s insatiable appetite to burn off all of what is left of our beautiful planet earth. The poaching of rhinos increased last year by 4000% in South Africa where there is a large population, now there is only 3200 tiger population left in the wild. What will become of them tomorrow if this continues?
But WWF, in collaboration with other bodies, are aware of the dangers we face if we do not make our environment most friendly to us as the Spiny forest plants do. WWF particularly have not folded their arms, it connects people through its policies and strategies all over the world. Their works of conservation can be compared to spiny forest, which tries to make their environment a better place for others to live. Through the help of WWF several communities have come to understand how to harmonize with nature. For example, WWF introduced Green Economic Development in Mozambique and helped to lift many people out of poverty.
Rather than killing 300 Elephants like the Janjaweed gun men from Sudan did in Cameroon last year, the spiny forest and its conservation technique would teach us to be more precautious with the way we treat our environment. The white substance that comes out of the white euphorbia stenoclada in Beheloke provide food to some insects, refuge to the king Fisher bird and some snakes that pass most of their time on it when it is hot. The spiny forest although voiceless, is sending us a message to manage well our earthly resources.
Israel Bionyi and Gregg Smith