Zuma: Ian Player helped put SA on the map

2014-11-30 20:26
(Tangi Salaün via Twitter)

(Tangi Salaün via Twitter)

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Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma on Sunday paid tribute to nature conservationist Ian Player who has died at home in KwaZulu-Natal aged 87, saying that his contributions helped put South Africa on the map.

"His passing is a great loss for the nation and for the nature conservation community worldwide," Zuma said in a statement.

Zuma extended his condolences to Player's family, friends and colleagues and said that his name was synonymous with conservation and the preservation of the environment for future generations.

"He did exceptionally well in this field, consistently, for decades, and managed to put South Africa on the map."

The Wilderness Foundation said earlier that Player died around midday at his home in the Karkloof Valley, in KwaZulu-Natal, after a short illness.

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa also expressed sadness at the news of Player's death on Sunday.

"His contribution to the preservation of our natural world and his leadership in saving the rhino from extinction in South Africa are achievements that cannot be beaten," she said in a statement.

Deputy Environmental Affairs Minister Barbara Thomson, SA National Parks (SANParks) board chairperson Kuseni Dlamini and newly-appointed SANParks CEO Fundisile Mketeni also expressed sadness at Player's death, department spokesperson Albi Modise said in a statement.

"Dr Player played a pivotal role in saving the world's remaining population of Southern White Rhino, leading South Africa's first Operation Rhino in the then iMfolozi Game reserve in the 1960s," he said.

Player's vision and dedication, and that of his team, led to the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve becoming the source population of Southern White Rhino. The rhino population in the Kruger National Park was locally extinct at that time.

"Translocation of 1 450 rhino from the Kruger National Park between 1997 and 2013 has contributed significantly to the growth of the South African rhino population," Modise said.

South Africa is home to 82% of Africa's rhino, 93% of Africa's white rhino and 39% of black rhino.

Dlamini said: "We owe it to him to ensure that we do not allow the current onslaught on our rhino to succeed".

On Friday, rumours of Player's death arose after his brother and renowned golfer Gary Player tweeted: "My beloved brother Ian has cast his canoe onto the river of life that will shortly take him across to the other side. I will miss you. Love".

Subsequently Project Rhino KZN spokesperson Sheelagh Antrobus said the tweet was "misinterpreted".

However, by then the Professional Hunters' Association of SA had already issued a statement paying posthumous tribute to Player.

"Dr Ian Player is without a doubt the grandfather of conservation in South Africa," said PHASA head Adri Kitshoff at the time.

During his career, Player served on a number of parks boards including that of SANParks.

He also established a number of conservation organisations and wrote books, including one about his passion for canoeing, titled Men, Rivers and Canoes, and a biography titled Into the River of Life.

Player is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  ian player

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