Originally from South Africa, Veronica Roodt had spent 34 years in Botswana’s Moremi Game Reserve where she was engaged in nature conservation.
The South African researcher and artist passed away at her camp in Moremi Game Reserve on 21 February 2022. She was found sitting in her arm chair, on her deck overlooking the Okavango Delta, the place that she loved and spent 34 years of her life researching on wildlife, plants and mapping.
Veronica was a pioneer in the development of the Botswana tourism industry. Many years of research, experience and integration with local tribes and communities, resulted in the publication of a wide variety of literature, maps and guide books on all the national parks of Botswana, Tanzania and the Kruger National Park in South Africa.
Amongst her well-known books include Grasses & Grazers of Botswana and the surrounding savanna which which details fascinating insight on how plants and animals have evolved together. The book published in 2015 addresses: the role of grasses in the food chain, grass anatomy and growth.
There is also other book she published: ‘Trees & Shrubs of the Okavango Delta: Medicinal Uses and Nutritional Value’ which was published in 1998 and Common wild flowers of the Okavango Delta: Medicinal uses and nutritional value also published in 1998. All these works were widely used by many safari guides in Botswana as resource material for their guiding training.
Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National parks and tourism operators on March 10 organized a memorial service to celebrate the life of Veronica. The event was held at Sedie Lodge in Maun.
Veronica’s sister Shelly Roodt was among the speakers who heaped accolades on the ‘legend’.
’ My sister was not an ordinary person. She could never live an ordinary life’’ she said, adding that Veronica’s love for the pristine Botswana environment attracted her to Botswana such that no amount of persuading to return back home by her family in South Africa could work.
‘’ she was a very talented piano player and would spend many hours in the wilderness playing complicated pieces on her piano. She was also known for artworks widely sold at exhibitions in Botswana and South Africa’’ Shelly said.
‘’ she was a pioneer of Africa, a legend. Veronica liked nothing else than living among Mophane trees (butterfly tree) in the Moremi Game Reserve. She continued to live in the same camp among the Mophane trees for 34 years until her untimely death at the age of 65.’’
Walter Smith representative of Desert & Delta’s Camp Moremi described Roodt as a conservation legend and a trainer. ‘’ As Camp Moremi we have been neighbours with Veronica for the past 35 years. She never shied away from sharing knowledge of her research and imparting conservation skills with us at Camp Moremi.’’
Moremi Game Reserve park manager Pelotsweu Galebotswe said Veronica was committed for the wellbeing of park and was instrumental in advocating for establishments of a new park routes to relieve congestion on existing routes, a project that she died when it was just about to start.
Further afield, South African based Struik Nature Club in their tribute to Veronica wrote: ‘’Veronica will be missed but her passion for the wild, her creativity and her indomitable spirit will live on in her many books on Africa’s flora and fauna.’’
Veronica first career was as a mathematics teacher in Johannesburg which she left to become a tour guide in South Africa’s Kruger National Park.
She completed her BSc degree in Botany and Zoology and post-graduate study in large herbivores based in Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana. Since her studies required maps and reference books which were not available at the time she then started a career producing maps and guide books which she wrote, illustrated and published.
Then, she left Botswana in 2004 to Tanzania where she published travel books for the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater and maps for all the Tanzanian northern parks. Returning to Botswana in 2010 she continued her call cataloguing, and documenting flora and fauna for all the Botswana parks.