Jannie Groenewald – a Naturalist in Heart & Soul

Jannie Groenewald – a Naturalist in Heart & Soul

Jannie (683x1024)When I asked Jannie, what is your passion in life and why, his reply was simple. “My passion is the conservation of Renosterveld and all its biodiversity. I don’t know why, I just like helping people with identification of plants and wandering around in natural veld.”

We could not have wished for a more fitting person to have as our new manager at the Haarwegskloof Renosterveld Reserve. Jannie started working as our reserve manager at the start of November 2014 and has already made some amazing discoveries. He and Odette, with inputs from CREW and a handful of visiting ecologists, have so far identified 318 plants species, 106 bird species, 34 mammals, 5 frogs, 12 reptiles, and 82 insect families. Some of the more usual and exciting findings included Aardvark, Aardwolf, Honey Badger, African Wild Cat, Rain Frog, and Black Harrier.

Odette describes Jannie as ‘one of the most passionate, bright, interested and interesting ecologists I know… with a passion for every life form and its conservation. Jannie is a huge asset to the OLCT and now we just need to make sure we keep raising funding so that we can keep him on! In the short time he has been with us, he has already made significant contributions to our knowledge of the biodiversity on our special reserve. Not only this, but he is an excellent caretaker of our Centre and he runs this with an equal passion.’

Jannie is no stranger to Renosterveld and the OLCT. As part of his MSc in Conservation Ecology at the University of Stellenbosch, he looked at the biodiversity and ecology of the Critically Endangered Rûens Silcrete Renosterveld, in the Buffeljagsrivier area near Swellendam. This veld type is sensitive to overgrazing and grazing at certain times of the year. He examined the effects of different grazing regimes on the Renosterveld plant and insect communities. During this study, he recorded more than 400 indigenous plant species, of which at least 30 were of conservation concern, and a total of 214 insect families in 23 insect orders. He even identified a new plant species, Haworthia groenewaldii (see photo below).

If Jannie is not in the field, identifying any living Renosterveld organism, you can find him at home with his Aloe collection of more than 230 different types.  He also loves collecting and growing calabash and other interesting members of the pumpkin family, especially heirloom, rare or indigenous varieties. He keeps a menagerie of birds, chickens and peafowl, as well as tropical fish in the Cichlid family, and cats. Good thing his family are such understanding and caring people 😉

He grew up in and around the Renosterveld and can’t really remember when his interest in ecology and conservation started, but he knows that he can’t see himself sitting in an office. He would love to continue doing what he does best, being a remarkable naturalist. We are so lucky to have Jannie as our reserve manager and welcome him to our Renosterveld family.