Wilderness Trailblazer Remembered


A globally recognised conservation legend, Dr Ian Player was a visionary and an activist who profoundly influenced conservation and changed the lives of countless people.
He grew up in the pioneering days of nature conservation in Africa, working for months on end in the wilderness. From 1952, as Warden of the iMfolozi Game Reserve in KwaZulu Natal, Player spearheaded important and far-reaching initiatives.

The first was Operation Rhino, in which he led the team that pioneered the methods and drugs to immobilize and translocate large mammals. The team captured and moved many of the remaining population of southern white rhino to save them from the brink of extinction. As a direct result, white rhinos now inhabit their former distribution range within many national parks and game reserves, private game farms, zoos and parks around the world.

The second initiative was Player’s recognition of the value of wilderness for the human spirit and for biodiversity conservation. Professionally, this led to the designation of the iMfolozi and St. Lucia Wilderness Areas in the late 1950s – the first wilderness areas to be zoned in South Africa and on the African continent.
It also fired his personal quest to understand the human psyche through dreams and drawing on the work of Swiss analyst Carl Jung, which he explored assiduously for decades with the late Sir Laurens van der Post. Dr Player was one of the founding forces for the Cape Town Centre for Applied Jungian Studies, the first such centre in Africa.

Another initiative he pioneered was the Wilderness Leadership School that takes individuals into untouched nature areas on journeys of self-discovery that revel in the awe of nature, develop a sense of belonging, deep respect and humility – during which a shift in consciousness occurs. It was Ian Player’s friendship with Magqubu Ntombela (below) and all that they stood for that infused the school with its significance and helped unfold the enduring lessons that the wilderness has on people.

His sporting passion was canoeing. After initiating the Pietermaritzburg to Durban Canoe Marathon (Dusi) 64 years ago, he went on to win the race three times. His exploits are well documented in his book Men, Rivers and Canoes – and the 2015 Dusi will be held in special tribute to him.

On this day of his memorial, how fitting to celebrate a similar story of tenacity and inspiration ….  

Poaching survivor, Thandi a rhino, has just given birth to a calf. ”Thandi’s story has been an incredible testimony of the will to survive against all odds. She represents so much of what her species faces under the current poaching crisis. Her survival has already given us inspiration but the birth of her calf brings a new dimension of hope to the crisis showing us that a future generation of life is possible if we put our minds and hearts to it” commented Alan Weyer, general manager of the Kariega Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape and Dr Fowlds of Investec Rhino Lifeline who has cared for Thandi since she was left to die by poachers two years ago and who pioneered her skin graft surgery.

South Africa has the largest population of rhinos in the world. However, figures compiled by the South African Department of Environmental Affairs show a dramatic escalation in the number of rhinos being poached. During 2014 a staggering 1116 rhinos were killed. Over the past five years 3569 rhinos have died at the hands of poachers.

Wildlife photographer and film maker Adrian Steirn arrived at the reserve last night and was able capture images of the mother and baby immediately following the birth. Steirn is the WWF Photographer-in-Residence for South Africa and has documented the fight against poaching across Africa for many years. He said: “Thandi’s story has captivated the world since she became a beacon of hope in the fight against rhino poaching. To see her with a beautiful, healthy calf is truly a privilege and should inspire optimism and renewed commitment to protect these incredible creatures.”


Acknowledgement: Alan http://mydurban.co.za/dr-ian-player-memorial-service/ 

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