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.