Botanist: Capenature, Jonkershoek

Rupert Koopman wondering around Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.

South Africa, which has the third-highest level of biodiversity in the world, is the only country to contain an entire floral kingdom. The Cape Floral Region, also known as the Cape Floral Kingdom, which has been declared a World Heritage Site, is 33-year-old Rupert Koopman’s unofficial office. In 2007 Koopman completed his BSc at the University of the Western Cape and worked as an environmental consultant before taking on a targeted botany internship with the South African National Biodiversity Institute programme Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers, and CapeNature. Today his work is almost as diverse as the fynbos on which it is centred. His responsibilities at CapeNature’s Scientific Services Unit, where he has worked since 2008, include specialist comment on environmental impact assessments, environmental education and threatened-plant monitoring. As part of the organisation’s stewardship programme 33-year-old Koopman also focuses on convincing landowners adjacent to CapeNature’s protected areas to voluntarily form part of the protected-area network. He uses every opportunity to encourage a culture of volunteerism, which, he believes, is the wellspring of self-actualisation. Fynbos provides South Africans with a rich source of medicinal plants, from which many of us benefit without being aware of the fact. Koopman seeks to raise awareness of the various ways in which we rely on fynbos and the natural environment and to foster a greater commitment to their conservation. In 2011 he was elected chairman of the Kirstenbosch branch of the Botanical Society of South Africa, an honour that testifies to the respect he has garnered in a short time. He also serves on the council of the Botanical Society, through which he works towards his goal of winning the hearts and minds of various sectors of society to ensure that our great biological heritage is maintained for future generations.

— Taryn Mackay

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