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  1. ITV Report

Royal couple 'angry' after poachers kill rhino at Kaziranga National Park just hours after visit

Footage obtained by ITV News shows the adult greater one-horned rhino covered in blood Credit: ITV News

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were "angry" to hear that poachers slaughtered a rhino at Kaziranga National Park, just hours after their visit to the highlight the plight of endangered species.

Footage obtained by ITV News shows the adult greater one-horned rhino covered in blood and with its horn hacked off at the World Heritage Site.

The latest death means the royal visit to the park was bookended by illegal rhino slaughter, as a female rhino was shot dead for its horns just two days before they arrived.

A spokesman for Kensington Palace said:

The Duke and Duchess were angry to hear about the killing of this rhino during their visit. They hope their time in Kaziranga encourages others to support the brave rangers that are protecting animals that are so important to the communities that surround the national park.

– Spokesman for Kensington Palace
  • Warning: Contains distressing imagery of the rhino killed on Wednesday

Prince William was said to be "appalled" by the poaching that happened shortly before the couple's visit and has vowed to help tackle poaching.

On Wednesday evening, while the couple were en route to the next leg of their tour in Bhutan, gunmen using AK47s shot dead the adult rhino before removing its horns.

A greater one-horned rhino Credit: Save the Rhino International

Rangers discovered the mutilated animal inside the Burapahar forest range of the park, located in Assam, with 88 empty shell cases surrounding it.

The rhino was killed 30 kilometres from the jungle resort where William and Kate were staying during their official visit to the park.

Poachers feed a mistaken belief among some people across Asia that ground-up Indian rhino horn is a cure for ailments from impotence to rheumatism.

The bullets used to shoot dead the endangered rhinoceros Credit: ITV News

They can reportedly earn up to £212,000 a kilogram for the substance and rangers struggle to fend off criminal gangs who have powerful weapons and plenty of ammunition.

Despite its latest instances of rhino poaching, Kaziranga park is deemed a conservation success - but it is battling criticism of its controversial "shoot-to-kill" policy regarding poachers.

Conservation charity Save the Rhino has told ITV News it is dismayed to hear of the latest rhino slaughter, but its director Cathy Dean defended the Park's right to allow guards to engage in armed contact with poaching gangs.

William and Kate spent time with the endangered animals at Kaziranga National Park earlier this week Credit: Reuters

The charity believes rangers should look to capture, rather than kill poachers where possible, but says those looking after endangered animals need better equipment and training.

The guards must risk their lives, but they’re not being given adequate tools to do their job safely.

Forest guards tasked with protecting Assam’s wildlife are usually equipped with antiquated muskets.

– CATHY DEAN, SAVE THE RHINO'S DIRECTOR

Kensington Palace told ITV News that the Duke of Cambridge is planning to fund training and equipment for rangers, through his charity United for Wildlife.

In the meantime, Save the Rhino has warned that the rate of poaching in India could rise further because criminal gangs are spreading false claims about the power of the rhino horns.

In 2015 Kaziranga lost 20 rhinos to gun-toting poachers.

The latest killing takes the number of one-horned rhinoceros shot dead at the park to seven this year.

"Rangers need better equipment and proper weapons training," said Dean. "We'd like this to become a top priority."

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