Prince Harry's Pictures With Sedated Elephants And Dead Rhinos Show The Threat Of Poaching To South Africa's Wildlife

A moving picture of Prince Harry hugging an elephant in his fight against the poaching industry shows just how far the royal has come in his conservation efforts.

The prince was visiting Kruger National Park in South Africa when the photo was taken.

In the image published on Instagram by Kensington Palace on Wednesday, the prince lamented the "pointless waste of beauty" of rhino and elephant poaching.

Prince Harry hugs a sedated elephant

Prince Harry writes in the caption of the photograph: "After a very long day in Kruger National Park, with five rhinos sent to new homes and three elephants freed from their collars - like this sedated female - I decided to take a moment.

"I know how lucky I am to have these experiences, but hearing stories from people on the ground about how bad the situation really is, upset and frustrated me.

"How can it be that 30,000 elephants were slaughtered last year alone? None of them had names, so do we not care?

"And for what? Their tusks? Seeing huge carcasses of rhinos and elephants scattered across Africa, with their horns and tusks missing is a pointless waste of beauty."

The picture was released to coincide with 31-year-old's current trip to the park.

Prince Harry kneels besides the carcasses of a rhino and her calf in Kruger National Park

During today's visit, the royal was also photographed besides a recently slaughtered female rhino and her calf.

South Africa's notorious poaching industry is threatening many species with extinction. Rhino horn is said to be the most valuable animal commodity in the world "gramme by gramme".

Prince Harry's guides were Major General Johan Jooste, who is in charge of Kruger's anti-poaching team, and senior environmental investigator Frik Rossouw, who has been a ranger for 27 years.

Both men spent time with the prince during his 10-day visit to Kruger over the summer, part of his three-month period working in Africa as a wildlife conservation volunteer.

The royal struggled to hold back his feelings, the Press Association reports, saying: "This belongs to South Africa and it's been stolen by other people," as he gestured towards the dead animals.

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Prince Harry In South Africa

His voice trailed off as he tried to put his feelings into words: "And the body's left here, wasted, just for..."

He later said in a determined tone to the rangers: "But these people will be caught."

The moving images show a different side to the prince, who was pictured 11 years ago with the carcass of a water buffalo while on a hunting expedition.

A petition earlier this year garnered nearly 100,000 signatures, with people calling for an explanation about the image.

Details on the petition reveal that the photo was taken in November 2004 when the then 20-year-old was on a gap year trip to South America shortly before enrolling at Sandhurst military academy.

But a senior royal aide is quoted on the site as saying: "It would be a great shame if the publication of this picture were to detract from the efforts being made by the three princes to curb the appalling illegal wildlife trade.

"Like his father and brother, Prince Harry has always been a strong supporter of the campaign to protect endangered species."

South Africa has 80% of the world's rhino population with just over half that number, between 8,000 and 9,000, in the Kruger Park.

Last year 1,215 rhinos were killed in South Africa, almost triple the 448 poached in 2011, and as of August 27 this year 749 animals had been slaughtered, with 544 of the deaths in Kruger.

Jooste said the rhino was facing an "Armageddon" moment: "For us South Africans, this is serious - an animal of prehistoric origins that is being slaughtered in numbers and dramatically more so because we saved the rhino.

"Remember in 1960 there were no rhino in the park and, through the efforts of visionaries and brave people, they resettled 150 and that grew to thousands, we have eight to nine thousands.

"This is Armageddon or not for the rhino."