Remarkable People

ID #5241

Ian Player, Conservationist, South Africa.

Ian Player  is one of the world’s outstanding conservationists and environmental statesmen. Born in 1927 in Johannesburg, he “earned his stripes” in the rough and tumble era during which Africa’s protected areas were both created and tested. Ian Player is a “man of many reasons’: game ranger, diplomat, writer, lecturer, wilderness guide, and a man of culture, the arts and psychology. He brings all of these parts to bear on a single mission -- to assure that wilderness remains a reality and a source of spiritual inspiration, prosperity and life on the planet.

Player was educated at St. John’s College in Johannesburg and served in the 6th South African Armoured Division attached to the American 5th Army in Italy from 1944–1946.

Together with his colleague and mentor, the late Magqubu Ntombela, Zulu chief and game guard, he brought people from all walks of life and parts of the world together to experience the importance of wilderness and its conservation. His career started with the Natal Parks Board in 1952. While Warden of the Umfolozi Game Reserve, he spearheaded two key initiatives:

o    Operation Rhino, that saved the few remaining southern white rhino
o    To secure protected status for the Umfolozi and St. Lucia Wilderness Areas - the first wilderness areas to be proclaimed in South Africa.

Player is Founder of the Wilderness Leadership School, the first organization dedicated to providing a wilderness experience for people of all backgrounds, races and nationalities. Started during apartheid, this multi-racial education and experiential program spawned a global network of conservationists committed to saving wilderness and wildlife. The work insisted that spiritual matters are as important to conservation as is science, and that people and cultures are an important part of the environmental equation. This led to the formation of the International Wilderness Leadership Foundation (WILD), the Wilderness Foundation SA, Wilderness Foundation UK, the Magqubu Ntombela Foundation and the World Wilderness Congress, first convened in 1977. The WWC is now the oldest public environmental forum.

Dr Player is the brother of golfer Gary Player. Marc Player (Gary's son) has underwritten the establishment of archives to ensure that his photographs, documents and memorabilia are secure and available to future generations of environmentalists.

He is the recipient two honorary doctorates:
o    Doctor of Philosophy, Honoris Causa from the University of Natal
o    Doctor of Laws (LLD) from Rhodes University

Awards include:
o    Knight of the Order of the Golden Ark
o    Decoration for Meritorious Service (the highest South African civilian award)
o    Peter H. Capstick Hunting Heritage Award in 2008
o    South African Sport Hall of Fame (Canoeing) in 2009
o    Safari Club International Conservationist of the Year Award in 2009
o    Birdlife Port Natal in 2009 - In recognition of outstanding dedication shown to Birds and Birding.


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Last update: 2014-03-30 20:32
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.3

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