Many online users in Madagascar are furious after several reports alleged that endangered baobab trees had been dug out and replanted in Dubai. But that's not what actually happened.
The FRANCE 24 Observers team was contacted by a reader who sent a photo of the trees in Dubai and claimed that baobabs "native to Madagascar" had been "stolen and planted at night" in the United Arab Emirates city.
A reader claimed that these baobab trees in Dubai had been "stolen from Madagascar."
Articles published in Madagascar and the United Arab Emirates
The reader said people in Madagascar were indignant when they heard of the alleged theft and that several local media outlets published stories in late April.
The website Midi Madagasikara published an article on the allegedly stolen trees on April 27.
The website L’Express de Madagascar published an article on the allegedly stolen trees on April 26.
The speculation around the alleged theft seems to have been triggered by an article published by the Emirates-based Gulf News earlier in April that claimed that several baobab trees in Dubai were members of the endangered Adansonia grandidieri species, the largest of the six native to Madagascar.
The Emirates-based Gulf News published an article on the allegedly stolen baobabs on April 20.
Claims refuted by an Australian company
But the claims were soon refuted by Baoab Tree Export Cycad International, an Australian company that said it had exported the trees to Dubai from Australia in 2018.
"These baobab trees are our Australian Salvage Harvested (Adansonia gregorii), they are not from Africa or Madagascar," the company wrote on its Facebook page. "They are not Adansonia grandidieri."
Adansonia gregorii are in fact native to Australia and not endangered.
Josef Perner, the company's director, said the trees were planted on four roundabouts in Dubai.
We brought 15 Adansonia gregorii to Dubai between 2016 and 2018. They are located on four different roundabouts: two in Al Seef, near the Bulgari Resort, and two on Jumeirah Street, near the Four Seasons Hotel. The photos published in Gulf News show the baobabs planted in Al Seef.
The company posted several photos of the project on both Facebook and Linkedin between 2016 and 2019. On his personal page, Perner shared photos of the trees being harvested and transported to Dubai.
This photo, originally published by Perner in March 2018, later appeared in an article by Midi Madagasikara.
This photo, originally published by Perner in May 2018, was taken at the same location as photos that later appeared in an article by Gulf News.
The Adansonia gregorii trees planted by Perner's company can also be seen on Google Maps.
A satellite view of Jumeirah Street in Dubai. (Google Maps).
A satellite view of the Al Seef neighborhood in Dubai (Google Maps).
Gulf News told the FRANCE 24 Observers it had been made aware of Baobab Tree Export's statement and on May 3 published a new article on the trees, this time stating that they had been transported from Australia.
This story was written by Chloé Lauvergnier (@clauvergnier).