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Prince William Takes Aim At Poachers

Max the rhino before he was killed by poachers

Prince William, Britain’s future king, has taken up the cause of elephants and rhinos, who are being poached to extinction in Africa.

After hearing, in February, that white rhino Max, who had been hand-reared by his friend Ian Craig, owner of the Lewa wildlife reserve in Kenya, had been shot 17 times by poachers, he issued a statement saying:

The Duke of Cambridge is appalled to hear about this senseless slaughter. He remains very concerned about rhino and elephant poaching and has asked Tusk Trust to keep him updated on this issue in Africa.

William, himself a hunting enthusiast, became a supporter of the Tusk Trust when he spent six weeks on the reserve in 2001.

Max had already had most of his horn removed – as is increasingly done to protect the animals from being killed for their horn. But the criminals killed him anyway in order to saw off the last  bit that remained.

Rhino horn sells for around $34,000 a pound in several Asian countries, where it’s ground up for quack medicines and turned into jewelry.

Last week, in Garamba National Park in the Congo, 22 elephants were shot and killed from a helicopter. After hacking off their tusks and genitals, the killers are thought to have smuggled them out through South Sudan or Uganda, which are considered the “Ivory Road” out of Africa to Asia.

“Last year we believe that as many as 35,000 elephants may have been slaughtered for their ivory,” Charlie Mayhew, co-founder of the Tusk Trust, told reporters. “South Africa lost 434 rhino last year. This year we know that they’ve lost more than 170 rhino. That’s more than an average of one every 15 hours and that is just South Africa alone.”

Speaking of Max the rhino, Mayhew said:

“Max’s slaughter by poachers is a shocking illustration of what is now happening the length and breadth of Africa to meet the growing demand for rhino horn in China and Vietnam. The fact that this rhino had been hand reared at Lewa meant that many visitors to Lewa including our Royal Patron had the opportunity to get extremely close to him. It of course makes it all the more shocking and sad when you know the individual animal that has been poached.”

Speaking out on behalf of the wildlife of Africa, William said that if people and governments don’t act immediately, “Tomorrow will be too late.” Here’s a video from NBC News with his comments:

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Hunting has, in fact, long been a pastime of the British royal family. And while we all want to protect the elephants and rhinos from being poached to extinction, if you’re one of the animals that William and his family enjoys killing, it’s small solace that he’s concerned to protect animals thousands of miles away from his own killing fields on the family estates in the U.K.

Certainly, “sport” hunters are often avid conservationists, but this is largely to ensure a plentiful supply of the animals they enjoy killing.

We all appreciate anything William and other hunters can do to protect wildlife anywhere. But the biggest thing the prince could do to help the animals of Africa would be to give up hunting himself.