South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)

Company Number 0128435000
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Hantam brunsvigia display

What SANBI does

The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) leads and coordinates research, and monitors and reports on the state of biodiversity in South Africa. The institute provides knowledge and information, gives planning and policy advice and pilots best-practice management models in partnership with stakeholders. SANBI engages in ecosystem restoration and rehabilitation, leads the human capital development strategy of the sector and manages the National Botanical Gardens as ‘windows’ to South Africa’s biodiversity for enjoyment and education.

SA’s vast biological diversity

South Africa is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world, after Indonesia and Brazil. Our country is surrounded by 2 oceans, occupies only about 2% of the world’s land area, but is home to nearly: 10% of the world’s plants; 7% of the reptiles, birds and mammals and 15% of known coastal marine species. Our country is comprised of 9 biomes (unique vegetation landscapes), 3 of which have been declared global biodiversity hotspots.

The importance of SA’s biodiversity

Atlas Freshwater Project

Biodiversity richness is one of South Africa’s greatest assets. Biodiversity in terms of landscapes, ecosystems and species – the web of natural life – provides goods and services vital for human well-being and the survival of the planet. Goods and services such as water purification, grazing, eco-tourism, fisheries, sources of medicine, energy, food, healthy soils, pollination, carbon sinks, clean air and production of oxygen, etc. Unfortunately our biodiversity, as is the case on the globe, is under threat. Some of these threats include ecosystem destruction and accompanying species extinction through human activity, climate change, and invasive alien species.

SANBI’s role in biodiversity education

Bird ringing demonstration

Knowledge of biodiversity leads to better understanding, to better management, and thus to better conservation and protection of our biological resources. SANBI is a dedicated national biodiversity institution that bridges science, knowledge, policy and implementation – a unique entity considered to be global best practice.

History of SANBI


The South African National Biodiversity Institute was established on 1 September 2004 through the signing into force of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004 by then President Thabo Mbeki.

The Act expanded the mandate of SANBI’s forerunner, the National Botanical Institute to include responsibilities relating to the full diversity of South Africa’s fauna and flora, and built on the internationally respected programmes in conservation, research, education and visitor services developed over the past century by the National Botanical Institute.


The National Botanical Institute (NBI) was an autonomous, statutory organisation formed by the amalgamation of the National Botanic Gardens and the Botanical Research Institute in 1989. Both these organisations were founded early in the twentieth century to conserve and study the exceptionally rich southern African flora and both were world-renowned for their endeavours in this field. This rich legacy passed on to the NBI. With its head office at Kirstenbosch in Cape Town, the Institute had gardens and research centres throughout South Africa. It ran environmental education programmes and maintained databases and libraries specialising in information on the plant life of southern Africa. On the 1 Sep 2004 the NBI became the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) in terms of Act 10 of 2004.

Vision, Mission and Values


Biodiversity richness for all South Africans.


To champion the exploration, conservation, sustainable use, appreciation and enjoyment of South Africa’s exceptionally rich biodiversity for all South Africans.


SANBI’s values spell uGREAT. They are:

  • • Ubuntu
  • • Growth
  • • Respect & Tolerance
  • • Excellence
  • • Accountability
  • • Togetherness
South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) Branches
Silverton, Pretoria (head office)
SANBI Cape Town
South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) is a partner of
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