Dr Ian Player is one of the world’s most outstanding conservationists and environmental statesmen. Born in South Africa in 1927, he "earned his stripes" in the transitional era during which Africa’s protected areas were being created and tested.
With his team, he pioneered the saving of the white rhino from extinction through Operation Rhino. After leaving government wildlife service, Ian founded the Wilderness Leadership School, the first organization in Africa dedicated to providing a pure wilderness experience for people of all backgrounds, races and nationalities. Started during the troubled days of apartheid, this multi-racial education and experiential programme spawned a global network of conservationists from all sectors of life who are committed to saving wilderness and wildlife.
In 1974, together with a group of American colleagues, Ian established The WILD Foundation, and also created or inspired its sister organizations in The Wilderness Network.
Ian’s approach to conservation highlights the importance of the spiritual as well as the scientific side of environmental impact. He maintains that people and culture are a vital element in the environmental equation.
Dr Ian Player's tribute to Magqubu Ntombela:
Dr Ian Player &
"During my 40 years’ involvement with conservation I have met many remarkable people ranging from princes to scientists and political leaders. But my beloved friend, mentor and wilderness guide Magqubu Ntombela was unique. He taught me the real meaning of hlonipha (respect) and ubuntu (compassion).
Through the most patient instruction he introduced me to a new cosmology. We worked together capturing rhino; he was with me as I crept up and fired the dart gun from very close range. On long patrols fighting poaching gangs and talking to recalcitrant law-breakers Magqubu was always at my side.
Coming as he did from a long line of warriors, he was afraid of nothing. His grandfather had served Shaka Zulu and his father fought in Cetshwayo’s Zulu army at the great battle of Isandlwana in 1897 with the Ngobamakosi regiment. Our early friendship grew out of that war because my grandfather in the Natal Hussars fought at Inyezane on the same day as Magqubu’s father was fighting at Isandlwana. Together in 1987 we made a pilgrimage to Brecon to the headquarters of the Royal Regiment of Wales, where we were entertained by the colonel and his officers."