After seven years of military service as a search and rescue helicopter pilot, Prince William, is embracing a new role as an advocate for endangered species - with an African focus. At a time when so many species teeter on the threshold of extinction, having the high profile prince join the ranks of those advocating for animal welfare and conservation is welcome news.
Prince William says his passion for Africa was ignited by his mother, the late Princess Diana: “She would come back with all these stories…full of excitement and just passion for what she had been doing and I sort of used to sit there, quite a surprised little boy at the time, taking it all in,” William recalled to CNN’s Max Foster in a recent interview.
The Prince’s connection to Africa extends beyond his mother’s magical stories to his own personal experiences. He has traveled to the continent himself quite extensively and even proposed to Katherine in the African bush (as the English like to say).
Interestingly, when he has suffered a particularly difficult day, he turns to the sounds and pictures of Africa to calm himself down. “I regularly daydream,”ť William admitted. “Africa is definitely one of the places I go to. For instance, I have hundreds of animals on my iPhone. So, if I have had a quite stressful day, I will always put a buffalo on in the background or, you know, a cricket or something like that. It takes you back instantly to the bush and it does completely settle me down.”
The Black Rhino which is one the world’s most endangered species has a special place in Prince William’s heart. “This is an international problem that needs to be faced,” he laments. “It’s hard to put into words the depth of sadness that I would feel if [black rhinos] went extinct.”
As a new father, he is particularly saddened by the idea that children like his son born today could grow up in a world where Black Rhinos would only exist in picture books and our imagination: “It is unfathomable to imagine [that] children who have been born in the past couple of months may grow up in a world in which rhinoceros have ceased to live in the wild.”
Prince William is already putting his words into action by becoming a royal patron of the Tusk Trust and establishing the Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa. William has been a royal patron of the Tusk Trust since 2005. The foundation’s mission is to “secure a peaceful co-existence for Africa’s wildlife and its people.”
Last week, the prince filmed a public service announcement for the non-profit organization Wild Aid, imploring people not to buy illegal wildlife products.
He is also working with a consortium of conservation groups and exploring how he can leverage his royal position and fame to best help endangered animals.
“William’s passion,” commented Max Foster, host of CNN, “is driven by the realization that unless he and others like him stand up for the wildlife of Africa, much of it could be lost forever.”