PRINCE Harry was visibly moved yesterday as he came face-to face with the grim reality of poaching in the Kruger National Park, lamenting how “one of the most beautiful places on Earth” has become a “killing field”.
The 31-year-old British prince was shown the body of a female white rhino and its young calf, discovered yesterday by rangers in the reserve, and believed to have been killed five days ago before their horns were hacked off.
He knelt by the prone bulk of the mother rhino, its ribs exposed after days of visits by scavengers, shaking his head sadly.
“This belongs to South Africa and it’s been stolen by other people,” he said. “And the body’s left here, wasted, just for . . .”
The prince has previously lamented that “seeing huge carcasses of rhinos and elephants scattered across Africa, with their horns and tusks missing, is a pointless waste of beauty”.
Major-General Johan Jooste said the poachers had left behind useful spoor – traces of their presence.
“There’s good evidence there, we have a water bottle and cartridges so we’re confident we will catch them,” Jooste said.
He said the baby would have been shot because it would have refused to leave its mother’s side.
The Kruger National Park is the centre of the battle against poachers, with as many as 9 000 rhinos.
Two rhinos are killed each day in the park. Last year, a record 1 215 rhinos were poached in South Africa.
So far this year, at least 749 have been killed, 544 in Kruger.
Three out of five rhino species are classified as critically endangered.
Harry visited the Southern African Wildlife College, one of the key training bases for rangers, where he was inducted in mapping skills, tracking techniques and bush communication.
He told graduates of his love of Africa and its wildlife, and his determination to help battle the poachers.
Kruger had become a major killing field, the prince said.
“If current poaching rates continue, there will be no wild African elephants or rhinos left by the time children born this year, like my niece, Charlotte, turn 25,” he said.