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Ian Player Obituary

3/15/1927 - 11/30/2014| Visit Guest Book
Ian Player  (Getty Images / Duane Howell / The Denver Post)
Ian Player (Getty Images / Duane Howell / The Denver Post)
JOHANNESBURG (AP) - South African conservationist Ian Player, the brother of golfer Gary Player and a key figure in building the region's rhino population from a perilously small number half a century ago, has died.

The 87-year-old conservationist was surrounded by family when he died Sunday at his home "after a short illness," said the Wilderness Foundation, a conservation group that he founded.

Rhinos, which are under severe threat from poachers today, also faced a crisis in the 1960s when Player led an operation to move some from a wildlife sanctuary and build populations in other reserves, including Kruger National Park.

"Without his work, you can imagine that we would have lost all our rhinos," said Fundisile Mketeni, the newly appointed chief executive officer of South Africa's national parks.

Mketeni described Player as a role model who was committed to "empowering black rangers" at a time when South Africa was under white racist rule. Player and Magqubu Ntombela, a Zulu ranger and guide, developed a strong bond over the years, capturing and relocating rhinos and also trying to counter poaching gangs in the bush.

South Africa's rhino population has expanded to about 20,000, or 80 percent of Africa's rhinos. Poachers have killed more than 1,000 rhinos in South Africa this year as demand for rhino horn rises in parts of Asia. The horn is made of keratin, a substance also found in human fingernails. Some people covet it as a status symbol and a healing agent despite a lack of evidence that it can cure.

In a statement, South African President Jacob Zuma described Player's death as "a great loss for the nation and for the nature conservation community worldwide."

___

CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA, Associated Press


Copyright © 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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