Prince Harry drew praise from his Instagram followers on Earth Day when he shared striking snaps of wildlife and preached about safeguarding the planet. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex's official account posted images of a relocated elephant in Malawi, a threatened rhino resting its head on a log in Africa and an extreme close-up of a critically endangered desert lion.
But Harry is now facing criticism after it emerged those three animals featured on the Sussex royal Instagram account - which has five million followers - had been tranquilised before the snaps were taken so they could be moved. The prince, who will become a father very soon, has been accused of cropping his photo of the elephant so that royal fans couldn't see a rope around one of its hind legs.
A spokeswoman for Harry denied claims that the image was cropped deliberately so that the rope wasn't shown. Harry's Earth Day post - which also features a photo of him and pregnant wife Meghan Markle walking amongst towering redwood trees in New Zealand - did not explain that the animals had been sedated as they were being relocated as part of conservation projects.
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Today is #earthday - an opportunity to learn about, celebrate and continue to safeguard our planet, our home. The above, Their Royal Highnesses in Rotorua, New Zealand. Of the 170 different species originally planted in the early 1900’s, only a handful of species, including these majestic Redwoods, remain today. Next, we invite you to scroll through a series of 8 photos taken by The Duke of Sussex©️DOS sharing his environmental POV including: Africa’s Unicorn, the rhino. These magnificent animals have survived ice ages and giant crocodiles, amongst other things! They have adapted to earth’s changing climate continually for over 30 million years. Yet here we are in 2019 where their biggest threat is us. A critical ecosystem, Botswana’s Okavango Delta sustains millions of people and an abundance of wildlife. Huge bush fires, predominantly started by humans, are altering the entire river system; the ash kills the fish as the flood comes in and the trees that don’t burn become next year’s kindling. Desert lions are critically endangered due partly to human wildlife conflict, habitat encroachment and climate change. 96% of mammals on our 🌍 are either livestock or humans, meaning only 4% remaining are wild animals. Orca and Humpback whale populations are recovering in Norway thanks to the protection of their fisheries. Proof that fishing sustainably can benefit us all. Roughly 3/4 of Guyana is forested, its forests are highly diverse with 1,263 known species of wildlife and 6,409 species of plants. Many countries continue to try and deforest there for the global demand for timber. We all now know the damage plastics are causing to our oceans. Micro plastics are also ending up in our food source, creating not just environmental problems for our planet but medical problems for ourselves too. When a fenced area passes its carrying capacity for elephants, they start to encroach into farmland causing havoc for communities. Here @AfricanParksNetwork relocated 500 Elephants to another park within Malawi to reduce the pressure on human wildlife conflict and create more dispersed tourism. Every one of us can make a difference, not just today but every day. #earthday
The photo of the elephant - showing a man holding the animal's tusk - was taken in Malawi as a herd was being moved to a wildlife reserve. Field guide Frank Weitzer, who was taking photos that day, told the Mail on Sunday, "We were in a floodplain and it was towards the end of July 2016. "I have a series of images – from a different perspective – depicting the elephant falling to the ground later on."
Harry's caption read, "When a fenced area passes its carrying capacity for elephants, they start to encroach into farmland causing havoc for communities. "Here @AfricanParksNetwork relocated 500 Elephants to another park within Malawi to reduce the pressure on human-wildlife conflict and create more dispersed tourism." It was suggested the rope wasn't shown in Harry's post due to Instagram's formatting.
However, when the same photo was posted on the Kensington royal Instagram account on October 28, 2016, it showed the rope around the elephant's left hind leg. The 2016 post quoted Harry as saying: "Kester Vickery from Conservation Solutions trying to get this Bull Elephant to lie down!" Map Ives, Botswana’s national rhino co-ordinator, said the photo of the rhino is also from 2016, but he could not remember Harry taking it.
Harry's caption read, "Africa’s Unicorn, the rhino. These magnificent animals have survived ice ages and giant crocodiles, amongst other things! "They have adapted to earth’s changing climate continually for over 30 million years. Yet here we are in 2019 where their biggest threat is us." It is unknown when the close-up of the lion's eye was taken.
The caption in Harry's post stated, "Desert lions are critically endangered due partly to human-wildlife conflict, habitat encroachment and climate change. "96% of mammals on our [planet emoji] are either livestock or humans, meaning only 4% remaining are wild animals." Wildlife photographer Christiaan Kotze was not impressed by the post. He told the Mail on Sunday, "[Harry] is on the front line and has access that very few people including professional photographers would ever dream of having. "If these are really his best images he has not used the opportunity to its full extent."
And one added, "The issue is that the images were misleading. The issue is that the information was edited. "The issue is that a responsible person shows the true story... not to use cropped images for a pretty photo of what people 'believe' is a happy, free animal. "The posters actions are irresponsible and without full disclosure, the cause is called into question."
Some users came to Harry's defence, with one writing, "It's appalling that the amazing conservation work being done here has been twisted by the media."