JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Britain’s Prince Harry has been on a private visit to South Africa’s flagship wildlife park, where poachers have killed rhinos in record numbers and clashed with rangers.
South Africa’s national parks service provided Harry with “exposure” to its conservation work, including efforts against rhino poaching, during his visit to Kruger National Park, the service said in a statement emailed Thursday to The Associated Press.
“This exposure does not include operational activities involving engagements with poachers,” the statement said. It said the parks service does not involve “guests, civilians or VIP guests” in such operations and that only rangers and other law enforcement officials participate in actions against suspected poachers.
The parks service said media reports that Harry was involved in the arrest of eight suspected poachers on Aug. 5 were false. They were detained in two separate operations at the Kruger park, one of which involved a firefight in which one suspect was wounded, parks officials said last week.
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“We do from time to time make presentations or provide exposure to individuals or groups who we believe can provide support in the fight against wildlife crime,” the parks service said in reference to Harry.
Kensington Palace said June 19 that Harry had ended his army career and would spend three months on conservation projects in Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Botswana.
The prince’s activities will include joining “a team of rangers who are the first to respond to reports of poaching attacks on elephants and rhino,” the palace said. It did not specify the location.
Home to most of the world’s rhinos, South Africa reported 1,215 rhino poachings last year amid rising demand for rhino horns in parts of Asia, including Vietnam. Some people believe the horn has medicinal benefits although there is no scientific evidence.