The Worth of a Tree

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Kenya canceled a license to a foreign company to uproot and sell its iconic baobab trees from the country’s coastal region following a public outcry that labeled the sale as “biopiracy,” the BBC reported Tuesday.

The issue began after a Georgian company bought eight of the giant trees from local farmers in Kilifi county. The farmers reportedly sold trees growing on their private land for between $800 and $2400. They said they wanted to clear their plots to plant maize.

The company told the Guardian last month that the baobabs were going to be planted in a botanical garden in Georgia.

But Kenya’s environmental ministry said the authorization to uproot the trees was not properly obtained. It added that action would be taken against the agents that approved the sale.

The ministry did not say if all eight trees had been uprooted or how old they were – even though pictures shared online show uprooted trees with huge tree trunks and branches.

Many environmental groups feared that the removal of the trees could upset the ecological balance and affect numerous species that rely on baobabs for their habitat.

Baobabs are known to live up to 2,500 years and can withstand adverse climatic conditions. Mainly found in savannahs and tropical areas, it is said to be the longest-living flowering tree on Earth.

The tree’s fruit is considered a superfood, while its bark has been used for its medicinal and cosmetic properties for centuries.

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