Prince William said he won’t be able to look his children in the eye if elephants & tigers go extinct ‘on our watch’.
The Duke of Cambridge told political leaders & conservation groups at an international conference that the illegal wildlife trade was run by criminal networks who threatened the livelihoods of generations to come.
Making the speech to the conference in London, the prince said: ‘It’s heartbreaking to think that by the time my children, George, Charlotte & Louis are in their 20s, elephants, rhinos & tigers might well be extinct in the wild.
‘I for one am not willing to look my children in the eye & say we were the generation that let this happen on our watch.’
William told the conference that some of the rhinos he saw on a recent trip to Africa ‘are so threatened they have more bodyguards than I do.’
Wanting to protect nature is not just an emotional issue, ‘it makes economic sense’, he told delegates.
He added: ‘Caring about the environment – our air, water, land & animals – is motivated by something that is simple and universal.
‘A desire to protect this planet for those who will come after us.
‘I firmly believe that the natural world is our biggest & most important asset, & the key to our future prosperity.’
After making his speech, the Duke and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt met representatives of organisations engaged in the fight against wildlife crime, including United for Wildlife.
Opening the conference, Mr Hunt said wildlife such as elephants & tigers had seen numbers plummet in recent decades.
While the $26 billion-a-year illegal wildlife trade was not the sole cause of animals disappearing, everyone suffered from its effects, he said.
‘The criminal gangs who smuggle horns & tusks pose one of the greatest threats to the survival of wildlife.
‘They target some of the poorest countries in the world, spreading corruption & depriving governments of desperately needed revenues that could be used for schools & hospitals.’
Action to enforce laws & prosecute smugglers could have an effect, he said, pointing to Nepal where no rhinos or tigers had been poached for four years.
The UK has launched an initiative to help countries in Africa & Asia launch investigations & seize assets, he said.
He added: ‘My aim is for Britain to do everything possible to protect wild animals for the sake of our grandchildren.
‘If we failed to act, quite simply we would never be forgiven.’
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the conference that networks smuggling tusks & rhino horn were part of wider crime groups: “They traffic guns, drugs & people. They launder money, engage in modern slavery, fund conflict & thrive on corruption. By one estimate, the illegal wildlife trade is the fourth most profitable criminal enterprise in the world, generating as much as $23 billion. (£17.5 billion)”
The UK Government will commit £15 million to help disrupt the trade. About 20,000 African elephants are killed by poachers each year. Only 5,000 black rhinos remain in the wild.
Mr Gove also announced a new international alliance, Ivory Alliance 2024, to try to reduce demand & push for outright ivory sale bans.
The Full Speech by Prince William;
"Good afternoon everybody. Thank you, Sir David for hosting us here in Mansion House today.
And thank you, Lord Hague for having your arm twisted yet again to Chair the United for Wildlife Financial Taskforce. Your ongoing support in tackling the illegal wildlife trade helps keep all of our feet to the fire!
A few weeks ago I was offered the opportunity to view a stockpile of ivory in Tanzania. So many of tusks in that stockpile were the result of illegal poaching. It was a grim reminder of the many thousands of elephants who had been killed.
It was also a stark and horrifying reminder of the global criminal network that profits on the back of it. The rows-upon-rows of tusks could have quite easily been drugs or guns, or bundles of laundered cash.
This trade has become the fourth largest criminal trafficking enterprise in the world, with billions of pounds flowing into the black market.
We cannot afford for this fight to be a priority solely for conservationists any more.
It is an issue for all of us.
We need to take these criminals on from every direction. One particularly vital way is to follow the money.
Much of this criminal activity takes advantage of everyday banking facilities. And that is why we are all here today.
You are all on the front line.
Those of you around this table are the people tasked with delivering this agenda in your organisations. And your organisations are around this table because you are leaders on the world stage.
I very much hope that this group will be the start of a united effort that will grow in size, in global-reach, & in strength & power.
Thank you for being the founding members of this taskforce & this declaration.
By disrupting the income of the illegal wildlife trade, we can disrupt a global criminal enterprise that brings great harm to communities all around the world.
And we will be part of something that protects wildlife for future generations.
The Mansion House Declaration is a clear demonstration of your collective commitment to tackle the illegal wildlife trade with the severity of any other financial crime.
Everybody's presence here today is a concrete demonstration of how the private sector, Government, NGOs & law enforcement are committed to working together.
You are recognising that the illegal wildlife trade is a serious organised crime that cannot be ignored.
I very much look forward to hearing today how you plan to work together on a coordinated strategy, share best practise across the finance industry, & ensure you have the maximum possible impact.
Thank you very much."
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Queen of the Elephants by Mark Shand ((1951 – 2014).
Mark Shand trekked 300 miles across East Benghal & Assam on the back of an elephant with Parbato Barua, the foremost & only female elephant trainer in all India. This book describes the experiences shared during this remarkable journey - joining a government 'elephant squad' together with local villagers to chase a band of wild elephants off a tea estate, & making a stop at Parbati's ancestral home, now a virtual shrine to her father's lifelong work with elephants. The importance of this ancient knowledge becomes clear: if not preserved, the Asian elephant stands an even greater chance of disappearing altogether.
Mark Sand was the brother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. He was a British travel writer & conservationist, & was the author of four travel books & as a BBC conservationist, appeared in documentaries related to his journeys, most of which centered on the survival of Elephants. He was the chairman of Elephant Family, a wildlife foundation, which he co-founded in 2002.
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