The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife have signed a landmark Memorandum of Understanding on combining their botanical strengths and resources.
Ezemvelo will integrate its 33 000-specimen herbarium into UKZN’s Bews Herbarium, while the University will make all its digitised plant distribution data available for use by the provincial conservation agency.
Ezemvelo currently holds the Killick Herbarium which is housed at its Pietermaritzburg headquarters in Queen Elizabeth Park. Under a 99-year loan arrangement between the two partners, the Killick Herbarium will be relocated and integrated into the larger and better-equipped Bews Herbarium at the School of Life Sciences on the UKZN Pietermaritzburg campus. All specimens will be barcoded, digitised and imaged before being integrated. This will extend the Bews Herbarium collection to over 180 000 plant specimens, a quarter of which have already been digitised.
The Bews Herbarium dates back to 1910 and is the fifth largest herbarium in the country and the largest in KwaZulu-Natal.
‘This is a win-win situation whereby the Bews Herbarium extends its collection for botanical research and Ezemvelo gets access to a considerably larger plant dataset which will allow them to make more accurate conservation assessments,’ said Dr Benny Bytebier, the current Curator of the Bews Herbarium.
The integration of the Killick into the Bews Herbarium is financially facilitated by the Natural Science Collections Facility, which has contracted two curation technicians, Mr Sifiso Mnxati and Ms Tanya Mathe, for a period of one year to assist with the task.
Words: Benny Bytebier