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William follows in father's green footsteps as he joins fight to save rhinos

19 JUNE 2012

The Duke of Cambridge has called for a stop to the illegal trade in rhino horns, warning that the animals are being killed at such a rate they could soon be extinct.

"Along with elephants, they're two of the most heavily poached animals currently in the world," said Prince William.

"If we don't do something about them it's going to be a tragic loss for everyone."

 

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The royal patron of wildlife charity the Tusk Trust has just lent his support to a programme to return three rare black rhino born in captivity and raised in Kent to the wild in Tanzania.

Speaking at Port Lympne wildlife park in Kent - where the young rhinos were raised - the duke, whose father Prince Charles is also a keen environmentalist and often speaks out about matters such as climate change, said he was keen to work with communities on the ground to ensure they benefited as well as the animals.

Damian Aspinall, from the conservation charity Aspinall Foundation, said the animals would have to cope with the stress of adjusting from a "cosy life" in the UK to the wilds of Africa.

"We think it's fantastic sending them home, but they probably think 'what the hell, strange noises, strange climate', I think any animal you send back will have a bit of a culture shock."

 

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In Asia, powdered rhino horn is believed to cure ailments including cancers - despite no scientific evidence to back this up.

"There's a massive need for education on poaching... rhinos are very vulnerable animals and I think a lot of people don't realise what happens and how rhino horn, or ivory, ends up in a particular area," says William.

"I think [we need to] make people aware of how delicate and fragile these animals are, and how much damage we are doing to them and to the wildlife and natural ecosystem around them just by our neglect and ignorance."

He added that those who knowingly took part in the illegal trade were "extremely ignorant, selfish and utterly wrong".

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