Photo essay: Documenting Mumbai’s Baobab trees

Baobab tree is historical to Mumbai, but residents are unaware of their omnipresence. One man took up the challenge to document them.

I knew of the Baobab tree as a massive tree somewhere in Africa, but little did I know that for most of my life in Bombay, I had been living among these gentle giants. Both the colleges that I studied in had a Baobab tree within 300 meters, but I never noticed them. 

The existence of Baobab trees can be traced back to centuries ago.
“If a Baobab spoke, man wouldn’t understand!” 
This phrase displays the profound nature of the trees and their existence that has surpassed centuries.
Pic: Zico Fernandes

Originally from Madagascar, Africa, the Baobab trees are defined by their swollen base – with a girth upto 36 ft – and height – up to 98 ft – and live a remarkably long life. I was inspired to advocate for the trees in Mumbai after an article highlighted a Baobab that was attacked by miscreants in 2014, and since 2017, I’ve been discovering and documenting Baobab trees in Mumbai – through an Instagram account – and have been featured in Mid-day and Hindustan Times.

Baobab trees play an important role in the environment and have medicinal properties.
The Baobab plays an important role in the environment, medicine and the circle of life. Pic: Zico Fernandes
There are several Baobab trees across the city of Mumbai.
I started my Instagram account to write about each tree that I visit in Bombay. I would start my journeys to scout for trees on Sundays so I could ride around easily and avoid traffic. Pic: Zico Fernandes
About 120 Baobab trees exist in Mumbai currently.
I have documented 30 odd trees on my Instagram account but I have heard that Bombay has around 120 of these scattered all over. I am no botanist, I have this account because of my love for this tree. Pic: Zico Fernandes
Mumbai is probably the only metropolitan city to house so many of these trees.
I want people to know how lucky Mumbai is to have so many Baobabs around the city. The city is so fast paced that these beautiful trees are often ignored, but Mumbai is probably the only metropolitan city to house so many Baobabs. Pic: Zico Fernandes
Citizen engagement is necessary for their survival.
I plan to start a Baobab takeover on Instagram since I am not in the city for a few months. Followers from Bombay can take over the account for one day, visit a Baobab that they know and post on the account themselves. Pic: Zico Fernandes

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