Holy giant – threatened giant The Kapok tree in Suriname
Introducing the Kapok tree
I am one of the tallest trees in the Amazon rainforest. I grow to a height of up to 50 meters and live for several hundred years. Many regard me as magical.
The oldest jungle in the world
The forest in which I stand is more than 100 million years old. It covers two-thirds of South America, which is an area of more than five million square kilometers.
It is almost the same size as Australia and acts as a giant sink for dangerous CO2 emissions.
My native Suriname
I stand in Suriname, one of the smallest countries in South America.
What is so special about my home? Tropical trees cover ninety percent of land here. That’s more than in any other nation in the world! And they are still largely intact. SO FAR.
To the south, my country borders Brazil, which is home to two-thirds of the rain forest.
But ever more trees are being felled to make space for pastures, plantations, gold and copper mines.
Tree by tree…
In Brazil, the rate of deforestation rose by almost 40 percent from the start of 2014 until the end of 2016.
The Kapok tree in three parts
We can’t let the same thing happen here. The forest is too important for that.
And I’ll tell you why. From my crown to my roots.
Part one – the crown
Many animals live in my crown, close to sunlight and in the thick of dense vegetation.
One inhabitant is the sloth. It moves slowly and spends most of its life in Kapok branches – sometimes even in one single tree.
Monique Pool, Green Heritage Fund
One of the sloth’s main enemies is the harpy eagle. It’s among the biggest and strongest birds of prey in the world, and also hunts monkeys, coatis and parrots.
Howler monkeys also feel comfortable in my crown, where they have plenty to eat. They howl every morning and when they’re fighting among themselves.
Part two - underwood
Palms and other middle-sized trees grow beneath my roof. Many lianas twist around my trunk and the animals use them to climb on.
Fauna and flora
As many as 200 species of tree can grow on a single hectare beneath me.
Almost half of all known bird species live in my forest.
Such as the white-chinned jacamar.
Part three – the jungle floor
At my foot, it is almost pitch black. But there is still a lot of life.
Insects creep and crawl around my roots. As many as 42,000 species live on a single hectare of rain forest floor.
Close by, there are humans: indigenous communities and descendants of runaway slaves known as Maroons. They call themselves "protectors of the forest." They use my wood, my leaves and blossom.
Harriette Vreedzam, Human rights activist
Suriname at a crossroads
My country is also increasingly at risk from overexploitation. The capital Paramaribo is growing and encroaching on nature. A couple of Kapok trees survived the axe.
But there is another, even bigger threat...
In my country, raw materials offer a way to make money quickly.
And that’s seductive for a poor state like Suriname.
But it also puts my unique jungle at risk.
Monique Pool, Green Heritage Fund
Our politicians keep talking about our rainforest being unique.
But so far, they have only declared 13 percent protected.
If the hunger for fast profits wins, the unique ecosystem in which I live will be in danger.
And I, the HOLY giant could become a THREATENED giant.
A web documentary by Bettina Thoma
Camera & sound:
Carlos Rincón Campo, Mauro Mancipe
Illustration & photos:
Nora-Charlotte Timm, Harvey Lisse