Fynbos expert edited scientific paper in hospital before dying of Covid-19

Tributes pour in for Anthony Hitchcock, who helped revive an iconic fynbos species that was listed as extinct

13 July 2020 - 07:00 By BOBBY JORDAN
Cape Town horticulturist and conservationist Anthony Hitchcock.
'Wise and humble' Cape Town horticulturist and conservationist Anthony Hitchcock.
Image: Supplied

Well-known Cape Town horticulturist and conservationist Anthony Hitchcock died in hospital on Tuesday of Covid-19 complications while undergoing treatment for cancer.

The 60-year-old Hitchcock was the nursery and threatened species programme manager at the SA National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). He was a dedicated and highly regarded fynbos expert who led various plant restoration projects in the Western Cape, and was reportedly still editing a scientific paper while in hospital.

He was also actively involved in environmental education via various non-profit organisations, among them Fynbos Life and the Kenilworth Racecourse Conservation Area.

Hitchcock was credited with helping to revive an iconic fynbos species, Erica verticillata, which at one stage was listed as extinct in the wild.

With his help the species was reintroduced at various Cape Town sites.

“Perhaps his greatest conservation legacy was the reintroduction of Erica verticillata to the wild, where it now lives on, largely thanks to his efforts,” Fynbos Life said in a tribute posted on their website last week.

“This flagship species raised the profile of Cape Flats Sand Fynbos, and demonstrated how effective people partnerships can even revive plant-pollinator partnerships from extinction.

“Anthony taught us that people that care and work hard enough cannot only mitigate harm to the earth, but accelerate the recovery of ecosystems. Let’s keep trying to do more of that!” Fynbos Life said.

The SA Landscaper’s Institute (SALI) also paid tribute to Hitchcock this week.

“Anthony was a great friend to landscapers working on fynbos conservation and restoration projects in the Western Cape,” SALI said.

“The SALI family honours his lifetime’s work on indigenous flora and extends their condolences to the family at this sad time.”

Numerous other tributes recalled Hitchcock’s good-natured approach to life: “A very humble, wise and well-mannered man who had great skills,” said Paul Britton, a former colleague.

“What a great and wise man he was. He will forever be remembered,” said Sini Ziwe.