JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Britain's Prince Harry saw the carcasses of a slaughtered rhino and her calf during a visit Wednesday to South Africa's Kruger National Park, which has been hard hit by poachers.
Harry also stepped into a conservation debate in South Africa, saying he believes legalization of the rhino horn trade will "accelerate the path to extinction" for the threatened species.
He said poachers have killed 1,500 rhinos in South Africa so far this year. He did not cite a source for the number, which would exceed last year's record number of slaughtered rhinos by several hundred. The South African government said in late August that about 750 rhinos had been poached in 2015.
Poachers have turned Kruger into "a major killing field," said the British prince, who spent three months this year on conservation projects in southern Africa.
He accompanied rangers who inspected the carcasses of the rhino and her calf, searching for DNA and other evidence that might eventually be used in the prosecution of suspected poachers. The carcasses had already been picked over by vultures and other scavengers.
"You have to try to get to the carcass as quickly as possible to suck up all the evidence before the wilds of Africa take it," the prince said.
Last week, a South African judge rescinded a moratorium on the domestic trade in rhino horns; the ban will stay in place pending an appeal by South Africa's environment ministry.
"It's not for me to second guess a court or the legal reasons behind its decision, but what I strongly believe is that the legalization of rhino horn trading will accelerate the path to extinction," Harry said.
An international ban on the rhino horn trade has been in place since 1977. South Africa is home to most of the world's rhinos.