On Tuesday, both Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Charles spoke at a conference highlighting the work of WildAid, which works to protect wildlife from illegal poaching and trafficking.
The focus of the conference was to:
- reduce demand for endangered wildlife and related products in markets around the world
- increase capacity for global law enforcement against the organized syndicates engaged in this activity
- assist rural communities to find long-term, viable alternatives to the trade
In addition to the royals, the event also featured a speech by WildAid’s Executive Director, Peter Knights, and a film highlighting former basketball star Yao Ming’s work with the organization. According to WildAid, “The audience consisted of more than 160 NGOs and government representatives from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America that play a role in the illegal trade: those that are a source of the wildlife and related products; those where the contraband crosses their national borders; and those whose citizens fuel the demand for the illegal products.”
In his speech, Prince Charles noted, “We face one of the most serious threats to wildlife ever, and we must treat it as a battle, because it is precisely that…Organized bands of criminals are stealing and slaughtering elephants, rhinoceros and tigers, as well as large numbers of other species, in a way that has never ever been seen before. They are taking these animals, sometimes in unimaginably high numbers, using the weapons of war…they are pushing many species towards extinction at an alarming and unprecedented rate.
“The animals being slaughtered to fuel this entirely unnecessary trade provide many benefits to humans, as well as to those other species that share their habitat. It is surely unthinkable that these creatures, which have roamed the planet for thousands, if not millions, of years, could disappear completely within a decade, or even less. As a father and a soon-to-be grandfather, I find it inconceivable that our children and grandchildren could live in a world bereft of these animals. Humanity is less than humanity without the rest of creation. Their destruction will diminish us all.”
WildAid states that the killing of elephants and rhinoceros has reached an epidemic high. Certain populations of African elephants are now facing the threat of extinction, and both the black and white rhino are being hunted for their horn in numbers never before seen.
“The poaching and trafficking crises invariably coincide with rapid economic growth in consuming markets,” said Knights. “We can only solve these crises in consuming nations as we did until 2008, with stronger laws in consuming countries and consumer awareness that reduced demand. When the buying stops, the killing can too.”
Tuesday’s conference was designed to be a jumping off point. The hope is that several countries will sign a declaration at a second meeting later this year, pledging to end illegal wildlife trade once and for all. The hashtag for the project is #endwildlifecrime.
To hear Prince William’s speech, check out the video below.