Prince William calls for action to save rhinoJune 19th, 2012 by Andrew Moth | Categories: environmental, government, industry, legal, tourism, training
The Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, has called for action to stop the illegal trade in rhino horns, warning that the animals are being slaughtered at such a rate they could soon be extinct.
“Along with elephants, they’re two of the most heavily poached animals currently in the world,” Prince William, who is second in line to the British throne and a future head of The Commonwealth, of which South Africa is a member, told the BBC.
“If we don’t do something about them it’s going to be a tragic loss for everyone.”
The royal patron of wildlife charity the Tusk Trust has just lent his support to a programme – run by conservation charity the Aspinall Foundation – to return three rare black rhino born in captivity and raised in Britain to the wild in Tanzania.
Poachers are killing more rhinos in Africa than ever before and their horns are fetching up to $60 000 a kg on the black market. Close to 300 rhino have been slaughtered in South Africa this year and despite a massive media campaign and a couple of criminal convictions, wildlife authorities and the SAPS appear powerless, unwilling and too disorganised to stop the killing.
Poaching in Africa is undermining efforts to stabilise the populations of both black and white rhino which together total some 18 000 in Africa, according to the conservation charity WWF.
Demand for rhino horn is driven by a market in Asia which stupidly believes powdered rhino horn can cure a variety of ailments and act as an aphrodisiac.
Prince William, who is a frequent visitor to Africa, said: “There’s a massive need for education on poaching… rhinos are very vulnerable animals and I think a lot of people don’t realise what happens and how rhino horn, or ivory, ends up in a particular area.
“I think we need to make people aware of how delicate and fragile these animals are, and how much damage we are doing to them and to the wildlife and natural ecosystem around them just by our neglect and ignorance.”
He said those who knowingly took part in the illegal trade were “extremely ignorant, selfish and utterly wrong”. Although he did not single them out, some of the people taking part are South African helicopter pilots and vets.
Speaking at Port Lympne wildlife park in Kent – where the three young rhinos were raised – the duke said he was keen to work with communities on the ground to ensure they benefited as well as the animals. “Otherwise many of these countries in Africa will lose prime tourism, prime assets,” he added.
The three black rhino, which have now arrived in Tanzania, have armed guards with them 24 hours a day.
The full interview with Prince William can be found on the BBC website.
The South African government has admitted that so far this year rhinos are being slaughtered by poachers at a rate of more than one day. Last year more than 400 were killed.