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WWF South Africa has lauded two inspiring leaders in the environmental sector for their years dedicated to conservation within the Succulent Karoo Biome.
Botanist Annelise le Roux and Piet van Zyl were each honoured with a Lifetime Contribution award in celebration of their work and service by the Leslie Hill Succulent Karoo Trust (LHSKT).
The trust, which is administered by WWF South Africa, was established in 1995 to conserve this unique biome.
The Succulent Karoo is a biodiversity hotspot that spans from Namaqualand in the west through to parts of the Klein Karoo in the east and is known for its diversity of succulents, with more than 6 000 plant species, 40% of which are endemic. It is also home to more than 250 bird species, nearly 80 mammal species, 132 reptile and amphibian species and an unknown number of insects.
Since its inception, the LHSKT has secured over 200 000 hectares of land in the Succulent Karoo for the creation and expansion of core conservation areas within this area.
Annelise le Roux, who has been a botanist for 40 years, has devoted a life time of research to the floral wonderland that is the Namaqualand region. She is the celebrated author of Wild Flowers of Namaqualand, now in its fourth edition, a picture guide to nearly 900 species most commonly found in the area.
Le Roux first visited the Namaqualand region as a student, and instantly fell in love with its beauty. Little was known about the plants of Namaqualand vegetation at the time, making it difficult for her to identify some of the plants, hence the idea of a field guide was born.
Today, largely through the efforts of people like Le Roux, Namaqualand is a popular tourist attraction during the flower season and its botanical heritage is of great economic and cultural value to residents.
Le Roux, who has an MSc in Botany, has also served on the Hantam Tanqua Roggeveld Advisory Committee of the Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Programme (SKEP). She continues to volunteer her services, working on surveys and sharing her expertise within the recently established Knersvlakte Nature Reserve and is also involved in the Northern Cape stewardship programme.
“It’s a great privilege to know that there are like- minded people who enjoy the Succulent Karoo like I do,” she said.
Avid hiker Piet van Zyl chaired the Leslie Hill Succulent Karoo Trust between March 2002 and August 2014.
Van Zyl had been involved in negotiations for the original purchase of the 40 000 hectares of land in the Namaqualand national Park and he played an important role in the acquisition of land in the Knersvlakte.
Further highlights during his tenure include the revision of the LHSKT deed to expand the core activities of the trust. This required considerable vision and skill as the changes that he brought about have enabled the LHSKT to do a great deal more for conservation than protected area expansion through purchase land.
Van Zyl was also closely involved in the initiation of the Biodiversity Stewardship programme in the Little Karoo and the Breede River Valley in partnership with CapeNature.
A similar initiative has been developed through his discussions with colleagues from the Northern Cape Department of Environment and Nature Conservation. Both have expanded the area under conservation management a great deal.
Van Zyl said it had been a pleasure to serve on the trust and that he had been appointed to ensure good governance of the trust.
“When Leslie Hill handed over the land, he handed it over to the best custodians. I grew up on a Karoo farm in the veld. It’s a pleasure for me to serve the Karoo, which is still a part of my life today."