Image © Beth Moon
In the fall of 2018, one of Madagascar’s most sacred baobabs cleaved and crumbled. The ancient giant was estimated to be about 1,400 years old and offered food, fuel, and fiber to the region before its trunk, which spanned 90 feet around, collapsed. Known as Tsitakakoike, which means “the tree where one cannot hear the cry from the other side,” the baobab was also entwined with local lore and thought to house the ancestral spirits of nearby Masikoro people. Its loss was devastating to the community and an ominous sign of how the climate crisis is permanently damaging these centuries-old trees.
Bay Area photographer Beth Moon has been documenting the species since 2006 and traveled to the region when Tsitakakoike fell. There she captured the cracked, deteriorating emblem along with other baobabs in similar states of crisis throughout Madagascar, Senegal, and South Africa. Shot in dramatic black-and-white, the images are rich in texture and frame the baobabs’ wide, crackled trunks and branches that splay outward into massive tufted canopies.