Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Death of a Conservationist

Contributed by Mike Bruton

One of the world’s greatest conservationists, Dr. Ian Player, died on 30th November 2014. Ian, brother of golfer Gary Player, is widely credited with saving the white rhino from extinction when their numbers were perilously low 50 years ago. Rhinos, which are still under severe threat from poachers today, faced a crisis in the 1960s when Player led an operation to build up their populations in several different game reserves, including the Kruger National Park in South Africa.

South Africa’s rhino population responded to these measures and has expanded to about 20,000 animals, or 80% of Africa’s rhinos. However, poachers have killed over 1,000 rhinos in South Africa this year as demand for their horn rises in parts of Asia. The horn is made of keratin, the same substance found in human fingernails, yet some people covet it as a status symbol, aphrodisiac or medicine despite all the evidence to the contrary.

hornless-rhinoIan Player started his career as a game ranger with Natal Parks Board in 1952 and later, while Warden of Umfolozi Game Reserve, spearheaded ‘Operation Rhino’ to save the few remaining representatives of the southern race of the white rhino. He also led the initiative to establish the first wilderness areas in Africa around Umfolozi and St Lucia Game Reserves in Zululand. He also established the Wilderness Leadership School and the International Wilderness Leadership Foundation, which lead to the World Wilderness Congresses that have been held regularly since 1977. His book, ‘Men, Rivers and Canoes’ (1964) initiated the famous Dusi Canoe marathon. Ian and his faithful companion, Magquba Ntombela, were very inspirational men who spawned a generation of thoughtful and committed conservationists.

I met him on several occasions. Once, while doing research on a remote lake in Northern Zululand, he visited me with the American astronaut, Walter Schirra, one of the spacemen on Project Mercury. The previous day they had taken part in a rhino catch in Umfolozi Game Reserve which Schirra described as “one of the best days of my life”. I took them on a trip across Lake Sibaya but a storm blew up and we had a choppy voyage back home and a tricky landing at the research station’s jetty. As he disembarked Schirra patted me on the back and complimented me on my ‘soft landing’ – quite a compliment from the Gemini pilot who achieved the first space rendezvous!

While I was Head of Education at the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town we arranged a debate on conservation ethics with a prestigious bunch of conservationists, including Ian Player and the palaeo-anthropologist Richard Leakey from Kenya. In Player’s opinion wilderness is not so much a place as a state of mind, a sense of freedom that every human has the right to have. Consequently he invited ordinary people as well as top decision makers, politicians, sportspeople and astronauts on his wilderness trails as he was convinced that an experience of the wilderness would change their attitude towards wildlife conservation, and he was right.

Ian has left us now but fortunately his books ‘The White Rhino Saga’ and ‘Zulu Wilderness. Shadow and Soul’ will continue to inspire generations of conservationists.

Professor Mike Bruton
MTE Studios Director,
Bahrain Science Centre.

Previous articleThe Digital Art Maker
Next articleInspired by Life

MOST READ

The aftermath of a historic night for BRAVE CF and Arab MMA

BRAVE Combat Federation’s vision of globalizing the sport started within the Arab world, which was often overseen by many other organizations, and to provide...

The Avenues-Bahrain 3rd Year Anniversary Celebration

The Avenues-Bahrain is celebrating its 3rd year anniversary since opening its doors to the public on the 29th of October 2017. The Avenues –...

BRAVE CF 42 full fight card released with 12 nations represented and the Flyweight Tournament quarter-finals

BRAVE Combat Federation returns to the Kingdom of Bahrain, for the second consecutive week with BRAVE CF 42, on September 24th. The promotion released the full...

Towards Creating Career Opportunities: Interview with Pakiza Abdulrahman

Bahrain Economic Development Board is an investment promotion agency chaired by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme...

Plans to improve electricity, water services discussed

Electricity and Water Affairs Minister, Wael bin Nasser Al-Mubarak, received here today the representative of the third constituency of the Northern Governorate at the...

Loan payment deference to help citizens, SMEs

The banks’ response to defer loan payments until the end of the year is a continuation of the initiatives in the financial and economic...

Carrefour Bahrain Introduces ‘Click and Collect’: The Latest Innovation for Faster and More Flexible Online Shopping

Carrefour, operated by Majid Al Futtaim in the Kingdom of Bahrain, is introducing Click and Collect, a new service that will give online shoppers...

The American University of Bahrain (AUBH) welcomes class of 2024

The American University of Bahrain (AUBH), re-opened its campus in Riffa, following an orientation session for the incoming Class of 2024 students. AUBH Founding...

Gulf Air Resumes Direct Flights to Dhaka

Gulf Air, the national carrier of the Kingdom of Bahrain, announces that it has resumed its direct flights to and from Dhaka’s Hazrat Shahjalal...

Bahrain exports BD190 Million Worth of Products of National Origins during August 2020

The Information &eGovernment Authority (iGA) issued its foreign trade report of August 2020, encompassing data on the balance of trade, imports, exports (national origin),...

Volunteering for Humanity: The phase III clinical trials in the Kingdom

The phase III clinical trials are being conducted in the Kingdom in collaboration with Abu-Dhabi based G42 Healthcare using a vaccine developed by Sinopharm...

SCE launches training course for radiological and nuclear emergencies

The Supreme Council for Environment (SCE)’s CEO Dr. Mohammed Mubarak bin Dainah, launched the national training course on responding to radiological and nuclear emergencies. The...

BD 150,000 ‘Shop & Win’ anniversary bonanza

Lulu Hypermarket is celebrating its 13th anniversary of being a retail leader in the Kingdom of Bahrain with a grand ‘Shop and Win’ e-raffle...

Declaration Supporting Peace: A historic, brave step aimed to enhance regional security and stability

The declaration supporting peace signed by the Kingdom of Bahrain with the State of Israel is a historic move towards establishing peace in the...

Gulf Air Appoints Bahraini Country Manager in Kuwait

Gulf Air, the national carrier of the Kingdom of Bahrain, announces that it has appointed Mr. Mohamed Ibrahim Al Hamer as a Country Manager...