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Prince William has spoken out about the "abhorrent" murder of six park rangers in Africa's oldest national park.
The sneak attack, which happened on the morning of Jan. 10, left another park ranger at the 3,000-square-mile Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo seriously wounded.
Preliminary investigations indicate that the rangers were ambushed while performing vital conservation work at the UNESCO World Heritage Site and had no opportunity to defend themselves.
"The horrendous attack on staff at the Virunga National Park is abhorrent and I condemn the actions of those responsible in the strongest terms," William, 38, said on Monday, according to a Kensington Palace release.
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"Rangers who work tirelessly to protect both the national park and the neighboring communities should be honored not attacked. They should never find themselves in a position where their lives are on the line," he continued.
The Virunga National Park was founded in 1925 and is the only place on earth to provide a home to three types of great apes – the mountain gorilla, eastern lowland gorilla, and eastern chimpanzee.
Tragically, this makes it a prime target for armed poachers, who have claimed the lives of more than 200 of the park's rangers in the line of duty.
Oxford Film/ ITC Prince William
The plight of Africa's frontline conservation rangers is extremely close to the heart of William, who is the president of the anti-poaching initiative United for Wildlife, which he spearheaded in 2014 to bring together those working to prevent species extinction.
In July 2020, the Duke of Cambridge called for the world to address the $50-150 billion illegal wildlife trade during a virtual meeting of the United for Wildlife Taskforces, where he spoke about how COVID-19 has drastically hurt conservation efforts across the globe.
"Crucial tourism revenue has largely dried up, and it will be many months, perhaps even years, before it recovers," he said.
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"Rangers' salaries are at risk, and there are early indications that economic hardship may be leading more people to turn to poaching," he continued. "The Uganda Wildlife Authority recorded more than double the incidents of poaching in their parks between February and May this year than last year."
This will see five awards of $1.3 million given each year, promoting at least 50 solutions to the world's greatest environmental issues before 2030.
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Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Prince William
The honors, which will be shown off at glamorous events starting in London at the end of 2021, will aim to recognize people, businesses, and even countries or cities that have innovative ideas.
"I felt very much that there's a lot of people wanting to do many good things for the environment and what they need is a bit of a catalyst, a bit of hope, a bit of positivity," William said in an October interview about the award alongside iconic naturalist Sir David Attenborough.
"I think that urgency with optimism really creates action. And so The Earthshot Prize is really about harnessing that optimism and that urgency to find solutions to some of the world's greatest environmental problems."