Communities and Evolution:
Who fell the mango tree?
Here you can find an illustrated story about the mango tree, which suits well younger listeners. We learn about the ecosystem through storytelling; how human activity influences food chains in various ways, and what are the consequences to the entire ecosystem. To complement the story, we have included informative pages about keystone species, extinctions as well as ecology and conservation of tigers. There is also an additional exercise that deals with interpreting visual culture around the endangered mammal.
Here you can listen to the story as an audio, which length is xx minutes.
Below the story, you also find pages with more information about tiger, mass extinctions before and after human impact on earth, as well as keystone species. There are also more resources for reading, listening and also additional exercises.
You can download and print out the illustrated story "Who fell the mango tree?" here (A4 paper size, pdf).
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Who fell the mango tree?
Once upon a time there was a small friendly Creature, from now on called __________*, who lived in a tiny hut somewhere far behind the high mountains. It led a very usual and uneventful life from one day to the next. Except on Mondays, you see on Mondays the Creature enjoyed eating the juicy mangoes that grew next to the hut. The Creature would spend its day filling its small puffy and hairy belly with mangoes, stopping only to take short naps.
One sunny day the Creature decided to travel to a forest further away to plant a mango tree. Creature had received a gift from its friend: a magical mango tree seedling, which grows very fast and makes the most delicious fruits. It wanted others too to have delicious, sweet and juicy mangos to eat, because mangos were the best treat it could think of. In the forest, the Creature looked for a sunny, lush place where it thought the mango tree would grow well and flourish. It dug a hole in the ground with its tiny paws and planted the magical mango tree seedling in the hole. The Creature hoped that the seedling would grow into a very large and fruit-bearing tree that would bring joy to everyone in the forest.
When the Creature was cleaning its earthy claws, about to leave the forest, it heard with its sharp ears the sound of thunder approaching from afar. At the same time, the deer, hares, and bison ran past it in fear. The creature panicked, and stopped one of the running hares and asked, "Why are you in such a hurry and look so terrified?" “We’re running away from a tiger who is trying to catch us,” replied the breathless hare. The Creature had never met a tiger and didn’t really like the idea that a beast was lurking around in the woods, making the hares feel scared. The Creature decided to help the animals living in the forest so that they would feel safe again.
The following night the hares gathered under the mango tree to eat grass. Suddenly they heard the sound of creeping footsteps. The deer too heard a suspicious rustling sound but did not see anything. After a couple of days, the confused animals gathered to talk about the events on that night full of sneaky crackling sounds, and they were all wondering: what had happened to the tiger?
Ever since that night full of strange events, the Creature visited its mango tree frequently. The Creature was glad to see it grow at a rapid pace and soon begin to bear fruit. Years passed and the Creature almost forgot about the forest across the mountain. The Creature spent its time close to its own hut, minding its own business and as we already know: enjoying tasty mangoes every Monday.
One Monday night though, as a cold northerly wind blew at its fur, the Creature suddenly felt uneasy. Even the sweet juice of the mango did not ease the growing sense of fear at the bottom of its stomach, which already had four or five mangoes in it. As it became more and more worried, the Creature decided to cross the mountains and go back to the lush forest to see if everything there was all right. The Creature spread its long, colourful wings and flew to the woods. But when the Creature landed…
Oh no! All of the trees and animals in the forest were gone, and the mango tree planted by the Creature had was fallen. The Creature was very sad. It sat by the roots of the fallen tree, looking at the deserted forest area and shouted loudly, “Who did this? Who felled the mango tree I planted with such care?”.
Lying on the ground, the very tired mango tree heard the Creature's sad cry and whispered silently, "Dear Creature, I fell because I could no longer get nutrients from the soil and because the soil on my roots disappeared."
"Why did you no longer get nutrients from the soil and why did the earth disappear from your roots?" asked the alarmed and weeping Creature. “That’s what you have to ask the springtails living in the soil,” whispered the mango tree and fell asleep on top of its dried leaves.
The disappointed Creature bounced off to search for the springtails. After a moment, it found a bustling springtail at the edge of the forest, which jumped agilely into the air and descended skilfully on a pebble stone. “Why did the mango tree no longer receive nutrients in the forest? And why did the layer of earth on top of its roots disappear?” asked the Creature. The grumpy jumper sighed and said, “It’s not just about the mango tree. None of the trees in the forest receives nutrients anymore.”
"But why?" the Creature asked sadly. The Creature could in no way understand these strange events. “When the grass and other plants disappeared, the rain drummed against the ground and carried away the soil and the nutrients. There were no nutrients left,” said the springtail.
"Why did the grass disappear?" wondered the Creature and wiggled its hairy ears. “That’s what you have to ask the grasses, if you can still find any,” replied the springtail and quickly slipped into a crack in the ground.
The Creature was shocked to hear that it was the grasses that had kept the mango tree alive. The Creature searched, and eventually it found grass at the foot of a high mountain. The Creature approached the grass and asked, “Why did the rainwater take away the soil with all the nutrients?” “Hello dear Creature,” hissed the grass and swayed in the wind. “Grasses use their roots to bind soil nutrients and prevent rainwater from leaching nutrients away. After the animals had eaten all of the grass in the forest, there was nothing left to protect the soil."
The Creature was very surprised to hear that the animals had eaten all the grass in the forest. "Why did the animals eat all the grass in the forest?" the Creature asked, quite puzzled. "I planted a mango tree for them to eat." “Maybe because they were so hungry. There were a lot of starving animals in this area,” answered the grass and turned away, bending itself in the direction of the bright and warm rays of the sun. After talking to the grass, the Creature realized how important grass roots are for holding the soil in place, while protecting the nutrients from leaching away. But the Creature still did not understand why the animals had eaten all of the grass in the forest.
As twilight crept into the devastated forest, the Creature set out to walk home with the tips of its ears tilted towards the ground. Even the wings of our discouraged Creature dragged along the ground. The Creature had been walking for a while and it was already dark when a lonely bat flew past it, stopping at a decaying tree trunk near the Creature. The Creature watched the bat hanging from the tree branch and exclaimed desperately, “I still don’t understand why the animals ate all the grass and the other plants in the forest”. Then, with its sharp ears the Creature was just about able to hear the bat respond in a high voice, "The animals ate all the hay in the forest because there were so many animals there eating it."
"Why were there so many grass-eating animals?" the Creature whispered wearily. The bat asked the Creature to sit down for a moment and began to explain, “Years ago a tiger lived in the woods hunting grass-eating animals. This meant that at the time, there were never enough animals to eat all of the hay. The tiger kept the number of herbivores under control. But then you asked the poacher to catch the tiger. That’s when the number of hay-eating animals began to grow, and eventually all the hay in the forest was eaten away. This ruined the soil, and all the trees in the forest, including your mango tree. I really did love the mangoes.” sighed the bat.
The Creature was shocked. It realized that it was to blame for the destruction of the entire forest and began to weep uncontrollably. The Creature cried and cried for many days and many nights. One day, however, its tears dried out and it felt very, very thirsty. The Creature shook the wet tears out of its fur and crawled to a nearby spring to quench its thirst. The Creature admired the glistening surface of the spring in the sun and the green moss that was hanging over its edges, the buzzing of the insects and the calling frog prowling around the spring.
This was when the Creature finally understood: In nature, plants, animals, and all sorts of other creatures, small and large, are all connected. The soil, hay, trees, and animals of the mango tree forest all change in concert with each other. They work together to feed everyone, grow new plants and new offspring in the forest and maintain life’s delicate balance. Every big change imposed on them from the outside, such as poaching the animals, cutting down the forests or polluting the environment, disturbs the lives of different species in their environments. The mango tree, which I planted, fell. But when an entire plant or animal species is gone completely, the web of life on Earth can be tipped off balance.
By now, the Creature had realised that it had made a horrible mistake. It was no longer worth trying to change the ways of nature to fit its own needs. From now on, the Creature would let all animals, plants and beings of all kinds live in peace leading a life that was habitual for them, just like the Creature itself wanted to do - spending its Mondays eating mangoes.
Inspired by the story originally written in English by Ramith Nair.
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