The United Kingdom’s Prince William has been told to “mind his own business” by critics after suggesting that population growth is endangering wildlife in Africa.
Speaking at the Tusk conservation awards in London on Tuesday evening, William said increasing pressure on the continent’s “wildlife and wild spaces as a result of human population” was presenting a “huge challenge for conservationists, as it does the world over”.
“But it is imperative that the natural world is protected not only for its contribution to our economies, jobs and livelihoods, but for the health, wellbeing and future of humanity,” he said.
The 39-year-old’s remarks echoed comments he made in 2017, when he said that Africa’s “rapidly growing human population” was putting its wildlife and habitats under “enormous pressure”.
In that instance, the royal came under fire for making the remarks as he was expecting a third child.
Experts have predicted that Africa’s population is on course to double to 2.5 billion people by 2050, potentially making it home to more than a quarter of the world’s people by the middle of this century.
While some praised the prince’s comments as highlighting the peril faced by the natural world in the face of global population growth, others took to social media to criticise his remarks.
Journalist Nadine Batchelor-Hunt tweeted that Africa’s current population density was considerably lower than that of Asia and Europe.
Others suggested the greater source of harm to the fauna on the African continent was European hunters in the early 20th century.
“To blame African civilians is to totally misunderstand African history,” one Twitter user said.
It would be helpful if Prince William paid attention in history. By far the greatest losses of wildlife in Africa occurred in the early 1900s when Europeans arrived with guns and hunted across the continent. To blame African civilians is to totally misunderstand African history.
— Adam Armstrong (@disinfo_adam) November 24, 2021
Some went further, saying William had “no moral authority to say anything about Africa or about Africans and their lives”.
“He should spend his time reading good history books and raising his many children and spending time with his very huge family spread out across the world. His opinion is sewage,” one Twitter user said.
But Population Matters, a British charity that campaigns to reduce population growth and its effects on the environment, welcomed the royal’s remarks, while also calling for British people to have fewer children
“The prince rightly draws attention to human population as a key driver of wildlife loss globally but there’s a wider context, with high consumption in rich, developed countries like the UK also driving habitat destruction as forests are cleared for crops to feed UK and European livestock,” Robin Maynard, the charity’s director, told UK newspaper The Times.
“The UK has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. The most effective action we can take to cut our consumption is to choose smaller families, a choice not available to hundreds of millions of women elsewhere,” he said, citing a lack of access to safe, modern contraception in some parts of the world.