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Prince William Supports Conservation of the Endangered Black Rhino

A Black Rhino
A Black Rhino at Namibia in Africa.
Photo by Frank Vassen.

In a rare interview to the BBC, Prince William has spoken out against Rhino poachers, describing people who kill rhinos for their horns as "ignorant, selfish and wrong". William said that he wanted to help the softly spoken world of conservation, a subject that he has always been interested in.

Prince William is the Royal Patron of Tusk Trusk, which was formed in 1990 with an aim of stopping the decline in Africa's wildlife and to help to combine the interests of the African people and their natural heritage.

He is a supporter of a conservation project run by the Aspinall Foundation at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent, England, which has translocated three rhinos from Kent to the wilds of Tanzania. He said that that rhinos, along with elephants, are two of the most heavily poached animals in the world and that if something isn't done it will be a "tragic loss for everyone" .

The population of black rhinos in Africa has dropped by 95% in the last 50 years. From around 100,000 in 1960, the population crashed to 10,000 to 15,000 in 1983, and stands at only around 4,500 today. These 4,500 are split into 3 subspecies. There were 4, but one of the subspecies, the Western black rhino has sadly already been declared extinct in 2011, after none have been seen since 2006. The three rhinos from Port Lympne are members of the rarest remaining black rhino subspecies known as the Eastern black rhino. Only around 800 Eastern black rhinos currently remain on the planet.

Rhinos are killed because of a ridiculous desire for their horns. This demand mainly comes from China and Vietnam where rhino horn is believed to have medicinal properties. There, rhino horn is more expensive than gold.

People would be better off believing in the magic of fairy dust however, as there is absolutely no scientific proof of any medicinal properties of rhino horn at all. In fact, many scientific tests have proven beyond doubt that rhino horn, which is made from similar tissue to human fingernails, has no medicinal effect. One noted doctor put it simply (for all those simple souls who may believe), saying that taking rhino horn would give you no more effect than chewing your own fingernails.

The poaching is so devastating to the black rhino population that sadly they all could soon become extinct.

Prince William was filmed by the BBC feeding one of the rhinos, called Zawadi, by hand. At 5 years old, Zawadi has spent all of her life so far in safe captivity. Born in Berlin Zoo, she came to live at Port Lympne Wildlife Park in Kent, England when she was 3 years old. Now though, it is time for her to have her freedom in Tanzania on the African continent where she truly belongs.

Prince William described Rhinos as very vulnerable animals and said that that a lot of people don't realise how rhino horn or elephant ivory is obtained. He wants to make people aware of how delicate and fragile these animals are, and to realise how much damage humankind is doing to them and the wildlife and natural ecosystem around them, just by neglect and ignorance in many cases.

He would love to stop poaching but realises this is a huge endeavour. However he does believe that it is possible. Prince William wants to aise awareness of the issues, to give those who are out there fighting poaching in Africa a chance to succeed.

His message is about educating people in understanding that when people buy rhino horn or ivory, they're taking this from an animal who has been slaughtered for this decorative ornament that they have at home on their mantlepiece. He asks them "are you happy to see this destruction going on"... "is that really what you desire and you think is right in the world".

Ivory means tooth in Hebrew, and many people still mistakenly believe that it simply falls out and grows back. However in the case of bothe elelphants and rhinos, the real truth is that the poachers don't care for the life of the animal, and usually kill the creature to obtain their ivory or rhino horn.

Currently two rhinos lose their lives every day as a result of this poaching. With only about 4,500 black rhinos left in Afica, every animal counts. Often the poachers are not local people but are from a significat distance away, even from other countries. Prince William says that it is important to make rhinos and elephants valuable to local people, by way of tourism and other aspects so that the money is pumped back into the local community. This will allow the locals to see the benefits of their natural wild animals which are some of their main tourism assets.

Prince William says that his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, also shares his passion and is "massively into the wildlife" and that she also believes in the big picture as he does.

Baby Black Rhino
A Baby Black Rhino at Chester Zoo.
Photo by Nigel Harper.

His message goes out to everyone who may have not realised the carnage that happens. To those who may know of what happens, yet choose to turn a blind eye to how their trophies or supposed-medicines are obtained, Prince William describes these people as extremely ignorant, selfish and totally and utterly wrong. He said it makes him "very angry" and that "It's a waste".

Prince William thinks that conservation will be one of his focuses. It is a particular interest of his, although he doesn't want to pigeonhole himself in one particular area yet as he has many passions and interests in causes that need attention.

He sees the translocation and relocation of these animals back into the wild where they can be protected by armed guards or in a national park is one of the ways of tackling the problems for now.

On the day of their journey to Africa, the three rhinos, Zawadi, who is named after a Swahili word meaning "Gift", another female named Grumeti, and a male called Monduli were loaded in crates onto a Boeing 757 cargo plane donated by DHL. A large rhino sticker on the plane indicated who was travelling! Onboard, the rhinos were kept happy with an assortment of specially chosen food. After a long 24 hour journey by plane and road to Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania, Africa, they were finally let out of her crates.

Zawadi calmly strode into the stockaded compound that will be her new temporary home. The other two Rhinos seemed to settle in well at the compound, all starting to eat and drink immediately and looking very calm and contented.

They will stay in the relatively small compund for a few weeks before being let into increasingly larger compounds begore having free range of a huge area of savannah where it is hoped that they will breed and creatle new little rhinos which will help to increase the desparately low population.

Conservationist, Tony Fitzjohn described the ability to bring the rhinos into the wild and to get them breeding as one of the biggest things in his life, yet felt it sad that a European source had to be used to back-up the dwindling rhino population.

Zawadi, Grumeti and Monduli will have armed guards to protect the around the clock whilst at their Tanzania compound. It is hoped that the rhinos will breed, thus increasing the numbers of the critically endangered black rhino and enhancing their genetic diversity.