Posts Tagged With: ian player

Possibility of Success in Rhino Conservation

White Rhino, Photographed in the Kruger National Park South Africa

White rhino crash by Etienne Osthuizen

The Southern White Rhinos

Just over a hundred years ago the southern white rhinos were on the verge of complete extinction, with less than 20 rhinos remaining. Hunting by Dutch and English settlers had taken a devastating toll.

In 1895, the area of these rhinos, which is now Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park in South Africa, officially became a protected zone. After rebounding slightly, by the mid 20th century additional measures were taken.

Operation Rhino: The operation was headed by Dr. Ian Player. Breeding groups of rhino were captured and relocated. They were moved to Kruger National Park, private reserves, and even zoos. The goal was to reestablish viable populations. It worked.

By 1960 there were 650 southern white rhinos, by 2010 there were 18,800. Today’s current population estimates are at 20,000.

white rhino population growth graph


Ian Player INLSA

Ian Player (INSLA)

As a game warden, Dr. Player worked tirelessly to relocate rhinos.  Among his many accomplishments, he established a successful anti-poaching network in South African game reserves which resulted in an impressive reduction in poaching. His efforts were the root of the success for today’s ecotourism in South Africa.

Rhino Today

Kruger National Park appears to be attempting the same strategy for the black and white rhinos today. Relocation of rhinos to private reserves, and neighboring countries seems a logical, albeit costly and difficult maneuver.

It is a daily saga that leaves us angry, heartbroken, but always hopeful.

What Has History Taught Us?

1.There will always be hunters, poachers and greedy, short-sighted men.

2. There are not enough Ian Players in the world, but in the right time and place they surface to achieve insurmountable things. They are here to teach us. By this teaching, we know it IS possible to save the rhino. 

So ultimately it is up to us. The poachers will not go away, but neither will the people who want to protect wildlife. Their future is undoubtedly in our hands. For those of us trying right the ship, Ian Player’s spirit is is alive in us and together we have more than a fighting chance at saving our rhinos.

White Rhino, Photographed in the Kruger National Park South Africa

    “Conservation is not a plaything, or a luxury, or something new. It is survival” -Dr. Ian Player








Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Grandfather of Rhino Conservation

Dr Player and long-time friend and colleague Magqubu Ntombela

Dr Player and long-time friend and colleague Magqubu Ntombela

The “grandfather of conservation” Dr. Ian Player has passed away at the age of 87.

Among his contributions, Dr. Player is known for his success in bringing the white rhino back from the brink of extinction.

Operation Rhino

In 1895 when the Umfolozi Reserve was begun, it was the last refuge for white rhinos. They had been wiped out by hunting everywhere else in South Africa. Dr. Player led the crusade to save the species by re-locating rhino to other unpopulated areas (much as Kruger is attempting to do now).

Initial method of rhino transport included darting the rhino and following on horseback until it stopped, then jumping down from the horse to quickly manhandle it into a crate for transport. There was a “considerable death toll”, as it took trial and error to devise the best cocktail of tranquilizer and the best method of capture and transport.

In The White Rhino SagaDr. Player refers to it as “a series of derring-do with a fair roll call of human and animal casualties.” But eventually the technology worked and the relocation of the rhinos began.

Dr Ian Player Operation Rhino

Dr Player taking measurements during a relocation. via Dr Ian Player archives

By the end of 1962, 18 white rhinos had been successfully captured and shipped off to game reserves across Kwazu Natal. Then other “orders” for them started to come in from Kruger and Rhodesia, as well as various zoos. By 1965 the IUCN declared the white rhinos “saved”.

Player then went on “sales calls” so to speak, offering to sell up to 20 rhino at  a time to safaris, zoos and conservation parks.

By the end of 1970 a total of 400 rhinos had been captured and released into their former habitats, and 150 had been sold to zoos. There were 2000 in Umfolozi and Hluhluwe Reserves.

Operation Rhino 2?

In a 2012 interview done by Rachel Lang, she asked Dr. Player: Could an Operation Rhino 2 be carried out today?

Dr. Player said “It’s a different world now. The most important thing we have to do is to save the rhinos that still exist, and that can only be done in two ways. There have to be more rangers in the field, and they must be supplied with good intelligence because it’s like fighting a war. You can’t win a war unless you’ve got troops and you’re getting information. And that leads to the second element we need. There have been a number of meetings, ‘rhino summits’ if you like, but we need top businessmen to be there too so that we can debate the best way forward.”

Dr. Player paved the way of present day re-locations, and set the precedent for re-population efforts. He saved the rhinos once. And as he said  “History should be our teacher and that’s the same with the environment.”  Following in his footsteps, we can do it again.

a new generation of conservationists dr player


(*Operation Rhino info from: Against Extinction: a story of conservation by William Adams)


Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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