British royalty with a passion for animals used a high-profile U.S. visit to urge for a crackdown on the illegal wildlife trade.
While on an American tour Prince William, along with his pregnant wife, Kate Middleton, used a speech Monday to the World Bank in Washington, D.C. call for action on one of the world’s “most insidious forms of corruption and criminality.” The Duke of Cambridge spoke bluntly.
“Criminal gangs turn vast profits from the illegal killing or capture of wildlife; armed groups and terrorists swap poached ivory for guns; and middle-men oil the wheels of the trade in return for reward. Together they loot our planet, to feed mankind’s ignorant craving for exotic pets, trinkets, cures and ornaments derived from the world’s vanishing and irreplaceable species,” he said.
He also announced that a new task force, chaired by former Foreign Secretary William Hague, would look at the transportation industry’s role in the illegal wildlife trade and to find ways “the sector can break the chain between suppliers and consumers.” It will have “zero tolerance” to the activity, he said.
Inspired by a family passion for conservation, he spoke about the wildlife crimes as hitting “the heart of our security” and a “the extinction of any of the world’s species of animals is a loss to all humanity.”
Prince William presented the alarming facts:
The illegal wildlife trade generates as much as $20-billion a year in profits.
- Interpol, currently in the midst of a crackdown on environmental crimes, which recently counted 17 largest seizures by customs officials netted a staggering 27,000 kilograms of ivory or the tusks of at least 3,000 elephants.
- More than 1,000 wildlife rangers have been killed over the last ten years.
- In China and Southeast Asia, the wholesale street price of ivory has increased from $5 to $2,100 per kilogram in 25 years.
- In South Africa, the number of rhinos killed by poachers in 2007 was 13. In 2012, it was more than 600.
- In 2013, more than 20,000 elephants were killed on the African continent, poached elephants now exceeding the rate of births.
- There are now only 3,200 tigers left in the wild.
Prince William is also president of United for Wildlife, which brings together conservation groups from around the globe, aimed to to better protect endangered species, introduced anti-poaching programmes and strengthen the law.
During the whirlwind tour, Prince William also met with U.S. President Barack Obama, while Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, visited a children’s centre in New York, where, little surprise, she was mistaken for Elsa, the character from Disney’s Frozen.
The couple also took in a basketball game.
Photos Clarence House