Prince Harry crouched down over the carcass of a female rhino slaughtered for her horn as he was shown some of the latest evidence of the continuing threat of poaching in Africa.
Harry, 31, was visibly moved as he visited a remote part of a South African national park during his tour of the country on Wednesday. With rhino horn valued greater than gold, poachers have been decimating the population.
Frustrated and angry, Harry gestured at the carcass and said, “This belongs to South Africa and it’s been stolen by other people.”
He also suggested that with the rate of deaths in what he called the “killing fields” of Krugar, there will be none of the prized animals left by the time his niece Princess Charlotte (who is 7 months old today) is 25.
Harry spent three months during the summer on a tour through four southern African countries as he worked alongside rangers and veterinarians and taking part in expeditions to de-horn rhinos in the fight against poaching.
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But on Wednesday, he was on official duty, speaking at a graduation ceremony at the Southern African Wildlife College, which is close to the Kruger National Park, where he had earlier seen the slain rhinos.
“My love of Africa has never been any secret – it s just been a huge part of my private life. I ve always wanted to keep it like that until I had the experience of age to give something back to a place that has given me and so many others the freedom and space we all crave,” he said. “This continent has given me thousands of happy memories since 1997 and for that I am indebted to it.”
He also praised the rangers for the hardships they face on a daily basis, adding, “I now fully understand the skill you bring to your work, the sacrifices you and your families make for you to do it, and the perseverance you demonstrate every day in the face of huge challenge.”
And he spoke about the statistics behind the graphic killing that he had witnessed earlier. Krugar, he said, had become “a major killing field. The numbers of rhinos poached in South Africa has grown by nearly 500 percent in just five years, with most of these occurring in Kruger. Already this year, 1,500 rhinos have been killed in this country.”
He added, “If current poaching rates continue there will be no wild African elephants or rhinos left by the time children born this year, like my niece, Charlotte, turn 25. If we let this happen, the impact on the long-term prosperity of this country and on the natural heritage of the planet will be enormous and irreversible.”
Harry s brother Prince William has been a leader in trying to ensure that countries like China and the U.S. get behind the clampdown on the illegal trade in animals and cut back on the demand that is fueling what Harry called “the huge incentive for desperate people to risk their lives for a payday from ruthless criminal traffickers.”
Next week in London, William, who set up the United for Wildlife consortium, is hosting a global taskforce of transportation firms, government agencies and wildlife leaders to restrict global trafficking routes. Harry announced that the consortium is to work with – and fund – the Southern African Wildlife College, “so that its graduates are equipped with the best techniques and technologies available to protect some of the world s most endangered species.”