Rüdiger Nehberg undertook his first expedition at the age of three, when he set out on his own to visit his grandmother. Now 78, he made a name for himself as a survival expert and used his fame to campaign for the rights of indigenous peoples of the Brazilian rainforest. In 2000 he founded the organization TARGET, which aims to put an end to female circumcision.
Better short and sweet than long and boring is Rüdiger Nehberg’s watchword. Fortunately it didn’t hold true for the Bielefeld-born adventurer. His long life, nearly eighty years of it, hasn’t been boring at all. His fans call him Sir Vival. He’s the man who hiked across Germany from north to south without provisions, who crossed the Atlantic on a pedalo and later on a massive tree trunk, and who can survive alone in a primeval forest.
Originally a baker and pastry cook by trade, he’s caught the public attention time and again with his stunts and used them since 1980 to fight for human rights, such as those of the Yanomani in Brazil, whose territory was threatened by an army of 65.000 gold prospectors. For 13 years, he has concentrated on condemning and trying to eliminate female genital mutilation. Together with his second wife, Annette Nehberg-Weber, and several fellow activists from TARGET he has already achieved a great deal in dialogue with high-ranking Muslim clerics. In 2006, at a conference in Al Azhar of Cairo initiated by TARGET, leading Islamic scholars condemned female circumcision as incompatible with the Koran. Rüdiger Nehberg’s aim is to spread that message everywhere the 5000-year-old ritual is still practised. For their commitment, Rüdiger Nehberg and his wife were awarded Germany’s Federal Order of Merit. The couple live in Schleswig-Holstein.