By Martin Fletcher
Few sights are as repulsive as that of a poached elephant or rhinoceros carcass rotting in the African bush. Their heads have been hacked with axes to remove the tusks or horns. Their eye sockets are empty. Their bodies, or what remains of them after the vultures, jackals and hyenas have eaten their fill, seethe with maggots and flies.
The beasts’ bodily fluids have turned the ground to mud, and the stench is appalling. The contrast with the majesty of those animals, and with the natural beauty all around, can easily overwhelm you.
That is what happened to Prince William who, while preparing for a television interview in September, was shown a video of a rhino bleeding to death. His eyes brimmed with tears.
‘He was very, very emotional. He just about held it together,’ said an aide. On screen, the Prince explained: ‘Wildlife is incredibly vulnerable and I feel a real protective instinct, more so now that I’m a father, which is why I get emotional about it.’
Now he has thrown himself into the fight for their protection from an illicit trade that not only leaves a trail of heartbreaking destruction but which increasingly is being used to fund a deadly assortment of terror groups.
In a statement to The Mail on Sunday, William said: ‘In the face of the threat to these species it is natural to feel powerless, but I have seen the extraordinary impact of advances in protection on the ground and the power of some media in reducing demand for these products.
‘Each one of us can help by raising our voices to support them. We have to be the generation that stopped the illegal wildlife trade.’
Last week William joined Prince Charles – who initiated their concern – at Clarence House to unveil their most ambitious venture yet: a government-sponsored London summit in February.
Together with David Cameron, William Hague and Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, they will urge heads of government or foreign ministers of 50 countries to fight back against those destroying Africa’s natural heritage to feed the avarice of Asia, where tusks and horns end up. More....