Our History

The Wilderness Foundation UK was founded in 1976 by Dr. Ian Player, international conservationist, and Sir Laurens van der Post, writer, explorer, and philosopher. Ian Player, a native of South Africa, is best known for saving the white rhinoceros from extinction.

Player established the first two protected wilderness areas in all of Africa, iMfolozi and St. Lucia in South Africa. With his Zulu guide and mentor Magqubu Ntombela, he founded the Wilderness Leadership School. At a time when it was illegal for people of different races to gather in South Africa, they established a multiracial program that became a worldwide movement dedicated to preserving wild spaces and enabling people to experience them.

Using the Zulu word for erythrina, Ntombela said:

“The msinsi is a tree found in the wild and also in the settlements. It is our job to take people from the settlements to the wild and then bring them back again. The leaf has three points, and each point contains a message: Man to God, Man to Man, and Man to Earth.”

Player added:

“Many years later I realised that the fourth relationship was the internal relationship of each of us to ourselves, and that was as big a mystery as the leaf itself.”

We are also one of the four founding partners of Wilderness Foundation Global

1983 Scotland World Wilderness Congress with Dr Ian Player, (founder of the World Wilderness Congresses and our charity), Laurens van der Post and Vance Martin (now President of Wild Foundation in USA)