Sanbi rejects claims of neglect at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden

Kirstenbosch fynbos walk. Pic: Supplied

Kirstenbosch fynbos walk. Pic: Supplied

Published Jan 7, 2024


Cape Town - The SA National Biodiversity Institute (Sanbi) has rejected claims that the world-famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden is in a state of neglect after complaints by a visitor who alleged that he saw dried-out grass, glass bottles and cigarette butts there.

Newlands resident Colin Bosman said what was supposed to be a nice day out enjoying nature turned into an appalling sight.

“Having visited Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens over the weekend, I was appalled to find the gardens bordering on derelict. Plant beds dry and many dead, cigarette butts all over, plastic cooldrink bottles laying in flowerbeds, lawns unkempt and unmowed, dead leaves and twigs all over the brick walkways, etc.”

Bosman said the gardens, once the pride of Cape Town and internationally recognised as a must-visit destination for tourists, “is now in disgraceful condition whilst the political squabbling goes on”.

However, Nontsikelelo Mpulo, director: marketing, communication and commercialisation at the SA National Biodiversity Institute (Sanbi), responsible for Kirstenbosch, said she was baffled by Bosman's claims.

“I've heard these stories before and I don't know where they are coming from, because the gardens are in an immaculate state. Our workers are there constantly. I have videos of workers pulling out weeds, manicuring the areas that are supposed to be manicured, and the areas that are rough, are in their natural state, which is supposed to be like that.”

Mpulo said the areas that Bosman is talking about are not reflected in the gardens. She said Kirstenbosch just had a very successful series of concerts at the gardens and they have not had any complaints.

The political squabbles cited by Bosman, who has not provided any visual evidence of his claims, refer to a change in the agreement between Sanbi and the Botanical Society of SA (BotSoc), a civil society, non-profit plant conservation organisation whose members have for the past 110 years enjoyed free access to the country's botanical gardens.

Antonia de Barros, general manager at BotSoc, said due to the effects of Covid, the need for state organisations to increase their own revenue “and Sanbi's imminent plans for their own loyalty programme, they have now withdrawn that benefit (free access) to BotSoc members”.

“Of course, the BotSoc Council, staff and members are disappointed about this, as our revenue going forward will be significantly affected, as most of our BotSoc members highly valued the entry to the gardens as a benefit. Sadly, this will mean that many members will not renew if they are exclusively members for garden entry.”

However, De Barros emphasised that they still work with Sanbi on other aspects, such as plant conservation.

“BotSoc will have to continue working very hard at ensuring that our members are aware of the important role that their membership fees play in making the conservation work possible across the BotSoc conservation programmes. This will not come to an end.”

She said where there is feedback, both negative and positive, this is brought to the attention of Kirstenbosch “on a regular basis”.

Both Mpulo and De Barros denied that any budget cuts or loss of revenue had any effect on the maintenance at Kirstenbosch.

Bosman's claims are also not borne out by the many Facebook posts, selfies and pictures by visitors at Kirstenbosch, showing pristine gardens.

On top of it, Kirstenbosch has just been voted the best botanical garden in Africa by the World Luxury Travel Awards.

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