Dr Ian Player, South Africa

03 July 2012 | News story

South African-born Ian Player’s environmental commitment goes back more than 60 years. A pioneer in the southern African conservation sector, his list of achievements is impressive, the most famous being ‘Operation Rhino’, a successful effort to bring the Black and White Rhino back from the verge of extinction and his extraordinary work to establish wilderness trails to inspire ordinary people to become extraordinary conservation activists.

He founded the Wilderness Leadership School; and established facilities in several remote game reserves in South Africa, thereby opening them to the public. He created an extensive anti-poaching network in the game reserves, which has resulted in impressive reductions in poaching and predation; and has conducted eco-surveys of crocodile and hippopotamus populations and of the nation’s avifauna.

Further afield, he initiated a training programme for rangers, some of whom have gone on to apply their expertise worldwide. He has established links with conservation movements in other countries and founded the Wilderness Foundation with branches in South Africa, the UK and the USA. A published author, sought-after public speaker, and documentary filmmaker, he has received several prestigious awards for his work, amongst others a Knight in the Order of the Golden Ark, and the Gold Medal for Conservation from San Diego Zoological Society. Throughout his career he has mentored and inspired hundreds of young conservationists and environmental activists in southern Africa and abroad.