German survivalist and campaigner for indigenous peoples Rüdiger Nehberg has died at the age of 84, his family said on Friday.
“We mourn,” a message on his website read simply.
Famously referred to as “Sir Vival,” Nehberg initially became a pastry chef and owned a chain of bakeries in the German city of Hamburg. However, he increasingly turned his attention to outdoor survival.
Activism in the Amazon
He became famous for his travels across sea and wilderness without provisions. However, it was his activism on behalf of the indigenous Yanomami — whose habitat in the Brazlian rainforest came increasingly under threat from gold prospectors — that cemented his reputation.
Nehberg raised his profile with a series of exploits such as “The Tree” — a controversial one-man crossing of the Atlantic on a tree trunk to promote the cause of the Yanomami.
During the 1980s, up to 40,000 Brazilian gold-miners invaded the Yanomami’s land in Brazil and across the border in Venezuela. Miners shot locals, destroyed villages, and exposed the indigenous population to diseases against which they had no immunity. A fifth of the Yanomami died people in just seven years.
Nehberg, who added to his fame by criss-crossing Germany followed by a camera crew and surviving on what he was able to find in the natural world, also promoted the causes of other oppressed groups.
He and wife Anette Weber also fought against the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), organizing an awareness-raising “caravan of hope” in the Sahara Desert.
Rüdiger Nehberg’s wife waits to hear her husband speak at Hamburg Central Mosque against female genital mutilation
They organized a 2006 conference of high-ranking Islamic scholars in Cairo. There, a religious decree was issued that declared FGM forbidden under Islamic law.
For his campaign work, Nehberg was presented with the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2008.