Across SA, thousands of plant and animal specimens are languishing in poorly catalogued museum collections. Although an important part of scientific research, the collections have suffered from systemic underfunding and neglect. But that is about to change with the launch of the Natural Science Collections Facility. SA is a globally recognised biodiversity hot spot, and has more than 100,000 plant and animal species. Over the past 200 years, scientists have been collecting samples across the country, and more than 30-million plant, animal and fossil specimens are now scattered among about 40 museums. "The collections are essential as a reference for accurately identifying materials for bioprospecting, agriculture and health sciences," says the South African National Biodiversity Institute, which will act as a hub for the facility. "They can be used to track pathways of disease and pest spread and to analyse past diets and movements of animal species, which is especially relevant for...

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