Wild fire razes 11 hectares of Madagascar's baobab By RIVONALA RAZAFISON in Antananarivo | Thursday, November 29  2012 at  15:07

Baobab
Smoke billows after bush fire destroyed 11 hectares of baobab trees in Menabe, south-western Madagascar November 24, 2012. RIVONALA RAZAFISON | MADAGASCAR  

A recent bush fire destroyed 11 hectares of baobab trees in Menabe, in Madagascar's south-western region, officials said.

Conservationists are now worried since the area known as Allée des baobabs (the avenue of baobabs), is one of the country’s tourism jewels and the trees have been national symbols for centuries.

Allée des baobabs is one of Madagascar's most visited sites and classified as a national monument.

It is a home to three of the six species of baobab on the island nation.

The natural reserve covers an area of 320 hectares, according to Fanamby- a conservation agency, currently in charge of the park.

“Combating fires is part of the duties of the community populating the area. But it was difficult to immediately put the disaster under control,” Mr Serge Rajaobelina, the Fanamby’s executive secretary, told the Africa Review.

Mr Rajaobelina said it took several hours to put out the fire due to strong winds.

“Bekonazy isn’t an important zone in terms of biodiversity. But the baobabs growing there have real symbolic values,” Mr Rajaobelina said.

On Wednesday, the country’s Ministry of Culture and Heritage and environmentalists planted new seedlings to replace the damaged ones.

Eight baobab species are know to exist in the world. Six of them are found on the island located in the Indian Ocean off the south-eastern coast of Africa.

Baobabs conservation started in 2007, when a 320-hectare area was declared a protected zone.