By Rebecca English
Prince William has flown off on a hunting trip days before taking part in a high-profile campaign to highlight poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.
Accompanied by his brother, Prince Harry, the second in line to the throne flew out to Spain on Thursday to shoot wild boar and stag at an estate in rural Cordoba owned by one of the wealthiest men in Britain, the Duke of Westminster.
The princes are frequent visitors to Finca La Garganta, which is one of the largest and most exclusive hunting estates in western Europe.
None of the animals they shoot are protected species, but the timing of the trip is unfortunate given William’s participation in next week’s high-profile Government-hosted conference on the illegal wildlife trade.
Kensington Palace officials have been privately and publicly pushing his role as one of the most important he has undertaken since leaving the military last year.
The future king is due to attend a symposium at London Zoo on Wednesday as well as a reception at the Natural History Museum, followed by the conference itself a day later at Lancaster House along with his father, Prince Charles.
The conference has been organised to highlight the sickening rise in poaching of animals such as rhino and elephant and the way the international community can respond to this.
According to reports, William and Harry flew into Seville separately on Thursday before leaving for the estate with four male friends, one girl and some Scotland Yard protection officers.
The 37,000-hectare property is teeming with wildlife including wild boar and stag which William and Harry, both crack shots, are said to be keen to bag.
The brothers try to go shooting on the estate together at least once a year and the Duke of Westminster, who is William’s godfather, instructs his staff to lay on every conceivable luxury.
Beaters and packs of dogs are brought in to ensure that the princes do not return home without several ‘kills’ to their name.
On a previous visit they were said to have bagged a staggering 740 partridge in a single day.
It is understood that William’s wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, and their son, Prince George, remained at home after their a luxury holiday in the Caribbean last week. She has joined the party in previous years.
The royals are staying in a ten-bedroom villa, one of three luxurious hunting lodges.
A Kensington Palace spokesman last night declined to talk about the trip, but said: ‘The Duke of Cambridge has for many years been a passionate advocate for endangered wildlife and has campaigned tirelessly to help stop the illegal poaching of rhino horn and elephant tusk.
‘His track record in this area speaks for itself.’