Prince William's tour of China to promote animal rights ends in embarrassment

The Duke of Cambridge was unaware that the apparently wild animals had been trained to perform tricks for tourists

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The Independent Online

Prince William’s call for an end to animal abuses – including elephant poaching and environmental conservation – during his four-day tour of China received praise from campaigners.

His meeting with President Xi Jinping on Monday to discuss the matter came a week after a historic decision to ban ivory imports to China for a year, in the hope that it would ebb demand for the flow of African tusks coming into the country.

However, there is still no ban on ivory trade within the country, which, according to conservationists, allows the black market to thrive with or without importation, and makes the country one of the main protagonists in trade.

The final stop of the Duke of Cambridge’s trip, therefore, as Patron of the Tusk Trust, was a poignant one. He visited the Xishuangbanna Elephant Sanctuary in Yunnan Province, where 250 animals represent the only “wild” Asian elephants in China.

William-elephant-landscape-Getty.jpg

But at the same moment the Prince was photographed petting one of noble creatures, a number of others were penned with their legs shackled just a kilometre away, waiting to perform a twice-daily, hour-long show for nearby tourists, Sky News has reported. A reporter from the TV station claims they watched as visitors sat on trunks, rode the animals, and were entertainment by elephants performing tricks like kicking footballs, balancing on stools and wearing giant glasses.

When questioned over whether he was aware that the elephant show was taking place a stone’s throw from his visit, Sky News alleges that the Prince turned around, but did not answer.

Speaking to journalists at the sanctuary, the Duke said: "It is appalling that elephants and many others may be extinct in the wild in our lifetimes, and we seem to be hurtling towards the tragic outcome.

"The extinction of animals such as elephants, rhinos and pangolins would be an immeasurable loss to the whole of humanity."

There was no suggestion, the report continues, that the elephant Prince William met or those performing at the sanctuary were in any way affected by the illegal trade in ivory.

However, the animals were far from wild and had been trained to entertain.

A spokesperson from Buckingham Palace is yet to respond to request for comment on the claims.

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