Superwoman Odette’s mission to save Overberg’s Renosterveld

Dr Odette Curtis, speaker at the Club monthly meeting on Wednesday 19 October, has dedicated her life to preserving one of the most diverse and threatened ecosystems in the world.

The title of her presentation will be “Saving The Overberg’s Renosterveld: Can we stop the extinction spiral?”


Dr Odette Curtis

Renosterveld – literally translated from Afrikaans as “rhinoceros field” – is a term used to describe one of the major and most diverse plant communities and vegetation types of the Cape Floral Kingdom.

Human activities such as farming have decimated these fertile fynbos havens, and Odette is hard at work trying to preserve the critically endangered survivors.

“It’s estimated that there’s less than between 4 and 6% of the Renosterveld left,” says Curtis. Even this is an optimistic estimate; the true figure could be significantly lower, she says.

The remaining Renosterveld is highly fragmented, with fewer than 50 fragments larger than 100 ha. Almost all Renosterveld remnants occur on privately owned land, creating an additional challenge for conservation.

All these factors, coupled with the large range of endemic and threatened plants and animals inhabiting this bio-hotspot, make the unique Renosterveld one of the most threatened habitats on earth. This puts it in urgent need of conservation attention.

Odette holds an MSc in  Zoology (2005) and a PhD in Botany (2013) from the University of Cape Town (UCT). She has authored or co-authored eight scientific papers and fourteen popular articles. She was invited as a Leadership Intern to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Pennsylvania, USA, for two months in 2005.

Odette managed the Black Harrier (Witkruis-vleivalk) and Black Sparrowhawk (Swartsperwer) Projects from 2000-2006 at UCT; undertook a pilot study on gamebirds in Renosterveld (2007), and was contracted by Cape Nature’s Stewardship Programme from 2007-2011. She also initiated research on Renosterveld management since 2007 (funded by the World Wildlife Fund from 2007-2011).

Since being appointed Director of the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust, she has made her home in Napier in the Overberg.

The meeting, in the Fernkloof Reserve Hall, begins at 19:00. We are back in summer time.

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