Monday, October 14, 2019

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

Education: Learning is the Best Earning

When I started my career in Dubai, I was merely a 12th standard graduate. I had no intention of studying further as I was...

Bahrain Airport Company staff honoured with Productivity Improvement Practice Certificates

Twenty Bahrain Airport Company (BAC) team members were recognised with certificates for completing a Productivity Improvement Practice (PIP) programme aimed at enhancing efficiency in...

Stress Relief through Plough Pose

Stress is defined as ‘A state of emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding conditions.’ When we are in stress our nervous system...

Tender Board opens 36 bids for five tenders for four purchasing authorities

The Tender Board, the independent regulator of Bahrain Government procurement activities, today opened 36 bids related to five tenders for four purchasing authorities. Among these,...

Carrefour and The Conserving Bounties Society Sign Agreement to Help Reduce Food Waste

Carrefour, which is operated in Bahrain by Majid Al Futtaim, signed an agreement with The Conserving Bounties Society, the first specialized foodbank in the...

VIVA Bahrain wins “Best Real Estate Solution” and “Best Smart City Solutions” awards

The Kingdom’s leading telecom operator, VIVA Bahrain was recently recognised at the Bahrain Smart Cities Summit 2019 with two awards – Best Smart City...

Cataract: In hindsight, all we need is a clear foresight

This World Sight Day on October 10th is an excellent occasion to look into  a few of the most prevalent reasons for vision impairment...

iGA Chief Executive Meets Huawei Bahrain CEO

Information & eGovernment Authority (iGA) Chief Executive Mohammed Ali AlQaed received Huawei Bahrain CEO, Jon Lu Yuedong at his office at iGA’s headquarters in...

Speed Cameras location service, New addition to the eTraffic app

Tired of getting caught on camera for speeding, unsure if you actually exceeded the road speed limit? Check out the new Speed Cameras location...

Bahrain and Kerala sign MoU for cooperation in FinTech, ICT and IoT Start-ups

The Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), the investment promotion agency for the Kingdom of Bahrain, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the...

Cure your Strawberry Skin

Have you ever noticed small dark spots or dots on your skin after waxing or threading? No matter how frequently you shave, these dots...

All-new Chery ARRIZO 6 Launched in the Kingdom of Bahrain

Motorcity, the sole distributor of Chery vehicles in the Kingdom of Bahrain, has announced the arrival of the all-new ARRIZO  6 at its showroom...

BD187 Million of Exports of National Origins during August 2019

The Information & eGovernment Authority (iGA) issued its foreign trade report for August 2019 which encompasses data on the balance of trade, imports, exports...

Combat Climate Change with AI

As we’ve seen in the past few days world-wide that the climate change is the biggest challenge facing the planet. It will need every...

Gulf Air Hosts Corporate Dinner for Travel Agents in Addis Ababa

Gulf Air, the national carrier of the Kingdom of Bahrain, has recently organized a corporate dinner for key travel agents in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia....