This past summer, Prince Harry spent three months volunteering as a wildlife conservationist in South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania, and Namibia. On Wednesday, to coincide with his visit to the South African wildlife college near Kruger National Park, he released a series of pictures on Instagram from his work this summer. Each picture is captioned personally by Prince Harry, and shows his anger towards the senseless act of poaching, which kills tens of thousands of animals every year.
Illegal poaching is a huge cause for concern among elephant and rhino conservationists. Due to the ivory trade, the rhino population is currently around 29,000 worldwide — down from a whopping 500,000 in the early 1900s. Though some countries — like the U.S. and China — are doing their part to help end illegal poaching by signing agreements that would make trading in ivory illegal, poaching still threatens thousands of animals every single year, many of whom aren’t simply shot and killed, but are instead sedated with a dart, and have their horns hacked off by poachers while they are awake, but paralysed.
In an effort to do his part to help stop illegal poaching, Prince Harry has shared some very emotional, and sometimes very graphic, pictures on Instagram that were taken during his volunteer stint. In one particular heart-warming picture, Prince Harry is seen hugging a large, sedated elephant, who was to be freed from her collar. In the caption accompanying the photo, the prince reflects on the senselessness of poaching.
“After a very long day in Kruger National Park, with five rhinos sent to new homes and three elephants freed from their collars — like this sedated female — I decided to take a moment.
“I know how lucky I am to have these experiences, but hearing stories from people on the ground about how bad the situation really is, upset and frustrated me. How can it be that 30,000 elephants were slaughtered last year alone? None of them had names, so do we not care? And for what? Their tusks? Seeing huge carcasses of rhinos and elephants scattered across Africa, with their horns and tusks missing is a pointless waste of beauty.”
According to the Guardian, during Prince Harry’s trip to the wildlife college on Wednesday, he was shown the dead bodies of a recently killed female rhino — who was killed so poachers could take her horn — and her calf. Visibly upset by the sight, the prince said “this belongs to South Africa and it’s been stolen by other people. And the body’s left here, wasted. Just for…” before his voice faltered, unable to finish his sentence.
In another of Prince Harry’s images — a particularly graphic one — he is seen assisting in Dr. William Fowlds in a life-saving procedure on Hope, a young black rhino, whose horn was taken by poachers while she was alive, but paralysed, and then left to die. Thankfully, locals saw her stumbling through the bush, and called the authorities. The procedure that Prince Harry assisted on helped save her life.
The lives of the animals being slaughtered for their tusks isn’t the only devastation wrought by these poachers. Upworthy reports that the poaching of elephants and rhinos — as well as other big game — often disrupts the flow of tourism in countries who depend on the money tourists bring in to survive. The more animals are killed by these poachers, the fewer there are to view by tourists wanting to see majestic elephants, or rhinos in their own habitats. The threat of violence by poachers is also a growing concern among tourists to these wildlife parks. Fewer tourists means less money coming in to these local parks, which help try to keep these animals safe. With less money comes staff cutbacks at these parks, which ultimately leads to even more poaching.
Hopefully, Prince Harry’s anger towards poaching, and his often beautiful, sometimes gruesome pictures, will help spur some more much needed conservation efforts to finally put an end to illegal poaching. To see the rest of the prince’s photos, check out his Instagram.
[Photo by Prince Harry/Kensington Palace via Getty Images]