1288249952

1288249952

Jatoba fruit on gray background, view from the top.

Photo by: Erich Sacco

Erich Sacco

An Amazonian Tree Sought Refuge with the Norwegian Embassy

By: Lucy Sherriff

When an employee at the Norwegian Embassy in Brazil opened the door to step outside the consulate’s building one morning, an unusual visitor was waiting outside who wished to seek asylum: a 19 foot-tall endangered Jatoba tree.

November 01, 2021

The tree species, also known as ‘Brazilian Cherry’, thanks to its salmon reddish wood, grows in the Amazon rainforest, where it has been heavily logged.

This particular tree was transported by the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, a group formed to increase awareness of indigenous rights.

Sonia Guajajara, APIB's Executive Coordinator, stood on the steps of the embassy and read a letter to plead with the consulate to give the tree refuge.

"Today the Amazon has become a war zone; 90% of the deforestation is illegal," she said, calling for a boycott of products that contribute to deforestation in Brazil. Norway is the only country that has banned deforestation.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is any living being who is out of its country of origin due to well-founded fear of being persecuted as well as due to serious and widespread violation of rights and conflicts. Guajajara says the tree is one such being.

"This refuge request may seem strange to the white man who lives apart from the natural world and considers himself greater than the trees, but ancestry has always taught that the meaning of life is the collective,” she said. “This request is a cry for the life of all species threatened by a corrupted and outdated vision of coexistence with Nature.”

542626696

542626696

Cutting a Jatoba tree from the forest. The Brazilian Government has announced a record rate of deforestation in the Amazon.

Photo by: Paulo Fridman

Paulo Fridman

Cutting a Jatoba tree from the forest. The Brazilian Government has announced a record rate of deforestation in the Amazon.

The wood from the tree is considered very valuable, and is one of the world’s most important commercial timber species, used to make cigar boxes, wardrobes, and other clothing storage due to its fragrant, insect-repellent properties. The sap of the tall canopy tree is used for medicinal purposes by indigenous people.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the tree as “vulnerable”.

A recent study published in the scientific journal Nature revealed that fire in the Amazon, caused by human action, may have affected 95.5% of the vertebrate plant and animal species known from the rainforest.

Out-of-control deforestation brings the world's largest tropical rainforest closer to its point of no return. If the current rate of devastation is maintained – or increased –, this "point of no return" may arrive sometime between 15 to 30 years from now, experts have warned.

623519894

623519894

Jatoba tree with flowers.

Photo by: Marianogueira

Marianogueira

Jatoba tree with flowers.

The APIB’s symbolic protest coincided with Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro appearing at the United Nations General Assembly to defend what he says is his government fighting against deforestation.

Bolsonaro has pushed for more mining and agriculture in the rainforest, but at the UN convention, insisted that the country’s environmental laws are a model for the world.

Back on the embassy’s steps, Guajajara’s speech hit home, and the consulate opened its gates to the protestors' truck which carried the tree. The Jatoba tree has since been planted on embassy grounds.

Next Up

Bat Pups Babble like Babies

Baby greater sac-winged bats show similarities to human babies in the way they string together syllabus before they can learn to “talk.”

There’s a Black Rhino Baby Boom in Zimbabwe

Finally, a success story for the critically endangered animal.

Using DNA to Reunite an Orphaned Elephant with her Mother

After villagers found a tiny elephant wandering alone, scientists began the search for her mother using DNA matching technology.

Brazil’s President Could Be Charged Over Amazon Destruction

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro could face international criminal charges in the Hague over his part in the destruction of the country’s Amazon rainforest.

Ice Melts in Norway to Reveal Ancient Artifacts

Ice melting in Norway has revealed an Iron Age medieval mountain pass littered with near-perfectly preserved artifacts.

Wild Animals Explore City Streets Amid Pandemic

In 2020 anything is possible, and the animals are taking back the streets.

Beneath the Water in South America’s Wetlands Lurk Hundreds of Swimming Jaguars

Fish-eating jaguars prowl the wetlands of Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay exhibiting extremely unusual behavior to scientists.

Clear Skies During Lockdown is a Pandemic Upside

With almost all of the world under lockdown, cars are off the roads and the smog is disappearing in some of the planet’s most polluted atmospheres.

The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker is Officially Extinct, Along with 22 Other Species

Preserved too late, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared almost two dozen previously endangered species as extinct, underscoring a larger problem of climate change and habitat loss in America.

The ‘Immortal’ Plant Tells Its Tale

A plant with two leaves has the power to live up to 1,000 years in a rowdy desert...is there really such a thing?