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A speech by HRH The Duke of Cambridge at a reception to mark the London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade

Published on 12th February 2014

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,            

It's a great pleasure to be here tonight and it's incredibly encouraging to see such an unprecedented gathering of Heads of Government, Ministers and experts from around the world. And I'd like to particularly thank Jackie Chan for his unwavering support of this issue and for coming all this way tonight.  I feel enormously grateful that you have asked me to address you – this room is full of people whom I admire immensely and I feel humbled to be here.             

My father, The Prince of Wales, who will also be attending the London Conference tomorrow, has always been a passionate advocate of wildlife conservation – as has my grandfather, The Duke of Edinburgh, who has championed the cause for decades.  We are, as a family, so honoured to be part of this movement. We will stay the course with you until you succeed.

Tonight we are here with a single, shared purpose – to use our collective influence to put a stop to the illegal killing and trafficking of some of our world's most iconic and endangered species.             

Never before has a group like this come together – in these numbers – to stop the illegal trade in wildlife.  All of us in this room have a duty to make sure that tomorrow, 13th February, is a date that marks the beginning of the end of this despicable trade.              

The Conference will bring together leaders from around the world who will pledge to reduce both the supply and the demand driving this trade.  Let's not for a second underestimate how important this step is.             

The illegal wildlife trade is now the 4th most lucrative transnational crime after drugs, arms and human trafficking.  It is estimated to be worth between 10 and 20 billion dollars each year.  Some might imagine it is a crime without human victim, but over 1,000 rangers have been killed in the past 10 years.  Every week, another two rangers are murdered by poachers. There is also evidence that poachers' activities are funding international terrorism.         

The scale of the trade continues to increase dramatically and is becoming ever more sophisticated.   Poachers now operate in highly organized, international criminal gangs.  Technology is also being exploited for the sale of these goods, with illegal products openly and easily available online.                     

But we need to believe in our ability to turn the tide.  We need to tackle wildlife crime with a concerted global response as vigorous and forceful as the trade itself.  We need to set aside differences, speak with one voice and act as one global community.  I am delighted that this is happening.           

As President of United for Wildlife, I am proud that seven of the world's largest field-based organisations, and my Foundation, have taken the first steps to create a powerful global alliance, addressing both demand and supply issues.   United for Wildlife recognises five specific areas which need to be addressed. 

If I may, I will briefly list them: 

First, we must strengthen protection for endangered species through the use of sophisticated new technology, including GPS trackers and drones.

Secondly, by working with experts in marketing, youth leaders and policy makers, we can work to reduce the consumer demand for illegally traded products.

Thirdly, legal systems are key to fighting wildlife crime. We need to support the judiciary and local authorities to combat trafficking, and to shine a spotlight on successful law enforcement.

Fourthly, we need to encourage the private sector – including shipping companies and others – to declare a 'zero tolerance' approach to the illegal wildlife trade.∙        

Finally, and crucially, we need to support local communities to ensure their livelihoods improve as a direct result of these conservation efforts.            

The United for Wildlife organisations are committed to these five pledges, which have been drawn up because they are achievable.   I know that all of you in your own ways are already helping to implement these pledges, too.             

Let me say again what I said a few moments ago: tonight is an unprecedented gathering.  The fact that we are all here gives me faith that we can turn the tide against the illegal wildlife trade.  Let's turn tonight's goodwill into action, and, please, let's be part of the movement that can tell our children and grandchildren that we saved these extraordinary species for them.             

Thank you so much for being here.