Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan share unseen photos from Botswana trip for World Elephant Day

By Zach Harper, with files from Sarah Walker

In 2017, Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan took a trip to Botswana, just months before they announced their engagement. While there, the couple visited elephants on a safari, and they’ve just released photos from what must have been an incredible experience on their Instagram for World Elephant Day.

The six photos show Harry approaching an elephant, Meghan’s hands while she pets an elephant’s trunk, and elephants in the wild. The couple have shared them to highlight the plight of elephants worldwide, and draw attention to the work they’re doing with Elephants Without Borders (EWB) and the Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Fund.

Both organizations have fitted 25 elephants with satellite navigation collars, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said in their Instagram post.

View this post on Instagram

 Today is #WorldElephantDay and we are pleased to announce that since we followed our friends at @ElephantswithoutBorders (EWB) on Instagram in July, when we were celebrating the environment, you and our friend @TheEllenFund (@TheEllenShow) have spread the word and EWB have been able to help protect 25 elephants by fitting them with satellite navigation collars! These collars allow the team at EWB to track the elephants, as well as to learn their essential migratory patterns to keep their corridors safe and open so future generations of elephants can roam freely. In honour of this amazing support, EWB have named their most recently collared Elephant...ELLEN! We can’t wait to see where she will go!  Two years ago on World Elephant Day, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex joined Dr Chase to help in this conservation effort. Below, a few words from Mike and his partner Kelly at EWB: • ‘Today is a day to honor and celebrate the majestic elephant and to make a strong stand for conserving and protecting one of the world’s most beloved animals. elephants are intelligent, sentient beings capable of emotions from joy to grief. They are ‘environmental engineers,’ a key-stone umbrella species, and the fight to save them is in effect, a fight to save entire ecosystems and all wildlife. Today elephants are facing many challenges; habitat loss and competition for resources creates conflict with humans, climate change and fires destroy much needed resources and poaching for the demand of ivory makes elephants bigger targets than ever. African elephants are especially prone to human-wildlife conflict because of their large home ranges. Finding, preserving and creating elephant corridors is therefore of great importance in helping to maintain habitats suitable for movement and minimising human-elephant conflict. Corridors are a mitigation technique to better the livelihoods of local communities and the elephants themselves, by providing environment and ample space for wildlife to navigate from one habitat patch to another, without affecting the livelihoods of communities.’ • EWB - Dr Mike Chase, Ms Kelly Landen .  by DOS © SussexRoyal Additional photos: EWB

A post shared by The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (@sussexroyal) on

“These collars allow the team at EWB to track the elephants, as well as to learn their essential migratory patterns to keep their corridors safe and open so future generations of elephants can roam freely,” the post reads. “In honour of this amazing support, EWB have named their most recently collared Elephant… ELLEN! We can’t wait to see where she will go!”

There are approximately 415,000 African elephants left in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). They are vulnerable to human-wildlife conflict because they have large home ranges, a comment from EWB in the couple’s Instagram post reads. They also face survival challenges due to habitat loss and still remain vulnerable to poaching for the ivory from their tusks.

MORE: Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan’s best unofficial photos on Instagram

In India, the WWF says there are between 20,000 to 25,000 elephants in the wild, and they are considered an endangered species. Sumantran elephants number only 2,400 to 2,800 and are considered critically endangered, the organization says.

This is the second time this year Meghan and Harry have shared a photo of them with an elephant. In April, the duke and duchess shared a series of photos from their Botswana trip. One showed them harnessing a sedated elephant.

Harry and Meghan aren’t the only royals who have spent time recently drawing attention to the issues elephants face. In April, Prince William wrote a passionate essay about protecting elephants in a new book called The Last Elephants.

Prince William had fun with an elephant named Ran Ran at the Xishuangbanna Elephant Sanctuary while he visited China in 2015. Photo: © Chris Jackson/Getty Images

“I’m not prepared to be part of a generation that lets these iconic species disappear and have to explain to our children why we lost this battle when we had the tools to win it,” he wrote in the foreword to the book, adding there were nearly a million elephants in Africa when he was born in 1982. Shockingly, he went on to write their numbers had plummeted to 350,000 when Princess Charlotte was born in 2015, and said the species could be “gone from the wild” by the time his daughter turns 25.

“This crisis is not just about animals – it’s also about people,” he continues. “It is some of the world’s poorest who will suffer when their natural resources are stripped from them illegally and brutally. It is families in the world’s most vulnerable regions who suffer when two rangers a week are killed on the frontline of this fight... It is fragile democratic systems in many nations that are at risk from the source of war, violence and corruption that the illegal wildlife trade funds and fuels.”

Duchess Kate and William fed baby elephants at Kaziranga National Park on a visit to India in 2016. Photo: © Samir Hussein/Pool/WireImage

The duke goes on to say there have been “encouraging signs” in the conservation fight, including China and the United States banning domestic trade in ivory.

In 2018, William flew to Namibia, Tanzania and Kenya in a plane bearing the hashtag #EndWildlifeCrime. During his time in the sub-Saharan Africa, he met with the heads of programs for United for Wildlife as well as Tusk Trust, an organization that seeks to stop the illegal poaching of elephants. The duke learned about the work each organization does to end animal cruelty.

Meghan and Harry are set to head to South Africa as part of a royal tour in October, and Harry will travel to Botswana, Angola and Malawi separately. We’re sure the duke will spend plenty of his time working with elephants and rhinoceroses during his trip. He and Meghan have written extensively on Instagram about the huge biodiversity in parts of Botswana and how protecting it is vital for conservation and work on climate change.

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