A Tribute to Dr. Ian Cedric Player

Dr Ian Cedric Player, the Patron of the Game Rangers Association of Africa, has passed away peacefully at home and everyone who knew and worked with him will solely miss him.

Dr Ian Player was a founding member. He fully supported its ideals of the uniting all of Africa’s Game Rangers to ensure that the continent’s parks, wilderness areas and wildlife survived and that they could support each other when facing the tremendous challenges.

He was a visionary who pioneered many vitally important conservation initiatives that had far reaching impacts in the protected and wilderness area management. He was a mentor to many game rangers in South Africa, Africa and further afield. He leaves a tremendous legacy in wildlife and wilderness conservation.

Ian Player began his conservation career as a Game Ranger with the Natal Parks Board where he worked in the Zululand reserves. He set about establishing effective management of the reserves and ensuring that the rangers and field rangers under him were adequately trained and equipped to fulfil their jobs. His life long mentor Qumbu Magqubu Ntombela, a senior field ranger at Umfolozi gave him much advice. As Warden of the Umfolozi Game Reserve, he soon realised that something had to be done to save the small remnant population of white rhino. He developed the capture and translocation of white rhino with a dedicated team of rangers and experts to ensure the continued existence of the white rhino. He was a tireless and fearless warrior for the protected areas, wilderness and the wildlife within them and was frequently likened to an enraged buffalo when he took the challenge.

His efforts to save St Lucia from mining demonstrates his spirit to do anything to save St. Lucia; even to the point of saying he would lie in front of the bulldozers if the decision to mine was taken. He lobbied politicians and decision-makers with determination and vigour to ensure that the South African Government knew the likely consequences of embarking on the mining.

His opposition to mining never left him and was the cause of much concern when the proposal to mine coal in the Fuleni Communal land close to the iMfolozi Wilderness Area that he was instrumental in persuading the Natal Parks Board to set aside in 1958. Ian’s concern for the Rangers in Africa who dedicate their lives to the conservation of the parks and the wildlife never left him. He was the first recipient of the Game Rangers' Association of Africa's Spirit of Africa Award.

He strived without success to raise a contingent of people under the “Green Helmet” brigade to be part of the UN Peace Keeping forces to work alongside the Rangers in the war torn regions of Africa to support and help save the parks and wildlife.

His concern about the plight of rhinos in South Africa and indeed in Africa and Asia was well known. He actively campaigned to see a more proactive way of stopping the escalating illegal poaching of rhino. He was severely criticised by many people and organisations but this did not deter him from advocating that a new strategy was urgently needed.

In September this year he attended the World Youth Rhino Summit in iMfolozi where he urged a gathering of 140 young people from 20 countries, including Vietnam, together with community leaders and educators to take up the challenge to stop the poaching and save the rhino globally.

Ian remained a dedicated Game Ranger right to the end – “Hamba kahle Madolo”.

The Game Rangers Association of Africa’s thoughts are with Ann, his wife and family at this time.

This tribute was written by Drummond Densham, a fellow game ranger, NPB colleague and close friend of Dr. Ian Player.

Ian Player


 irf  iucn