The Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) award recognizes outstanding individuals, organizations or projects in the field of ecological restoration. Dr Tony Rebelo at the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) has been selected as a recipient of the 2019 Regional Award for South Africa.

Renowned scientist at SANBI Dr Tony Rebelo was celebrated and recognised for his sustained and successful work towards the restoration of the unique Cape Flats Sand Fynbos habitat at Tokai Park and its critically endangered plant species at the 8th World Conference on Ecological Restoration which was recently held in Cape Town.

Ecological restoration becomes a fundamental component of conservation and sustainable development programs throughout the world by virtue of its inherent capacity to provide people with the opportunity to not only repair ecological damage, but also improve the human condition. The SER advances the science, practice and policy of ecological restoration to sustain biodiversity, improves resilience in a changing climate, and re-establish an ecologically healthy relationship between nature and culture.

The Society has selected Dr Rebelo for the Regional Award in recognition of the application of a holistic and structured restoration methodology that includes baseline assessment of seed banks and species’ gaps, benchmarking with reference data, management of invasive species, the re-introduction of missing species, and ongoing monitoring. Dr Rebelo’s program is innovative and holds the potential of global application for future restoration projects.

Dr Rebelo noted ‘Tokai has been a major learning experience. In the first conservation assessment of the Flora Conservation Committee for the City of Cape Town in the 1990s, Tokai did not feature. But following a fire and the alert of citizen scientists and the Friends of Tokai Forest, the passive recovery of the area catapulted Tokai to the top few priority unconserved areas in Cape Town. Over the past ten years several SANBI interns have used the area for their studies, contributing further to our understanding of the areas ecology.

With Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and the Millennium Seed Bank, we have planned and effected the reintroduction of species that have not appeared in the area, including the extinct in the wild species, Erica verticillata and Erica turgida, and other threatened Red List species.’

According to Dr Rebelo, the restoration work at Tokai Park has also involved many organizations. Although lower Tokai Park is 120 hectares in size, it has 400 plant species – more plant species than several of South Africa’s National Parks, such as the Kgalagadi Transfontier Park, and thus representing 2 over 20 threatened International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List species. ‘As a success story, Tokai has been amazing!’ he says.

The work Dr Rebelo is being recognised for is very well-placed and aligned with the new United Nations ‘Decade of Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030’ declared on 1 March 2019 which aims to upscale the efforts of compromised ecosystems as a measure to enhance biodiversity, water supply, food supply and fight the impacts of climate change.

The project also involved opportunities for citizen science activities, as the public participation of local community members towards the collection and analysis of data was collected which contributed towards restoration efforts led by Dr Rebelo. This has facilitated ecological awareness and stakeholder commitment, both of which are important for sustainability.

The award was presented during the closing ceremony on Saturday, 28 September 2019, at the 8th World Conference on Ecological Restoration in Cape Town.

For more information contact:

Name: Dr Tony Rebelo
Designation: Ecologist
Landline: +27 (0)21 7998727
Email address:

Name: Mr Ismail Ebrahim
Designation: CREW CFR Program Manager,
Landline: +27 (0)21 799 8751
Email address:

To setup interviews please contact:

Name: Dipolelo Moshe
Designation: Deputy Director: Marketing and Communications
Landline:  +27 (0)12 843 5021
Cell: +27 (0)72 996 8289

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