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A speech given by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales at Windsor Polo and Beach Club on Saturday, 18th February 1989

Published on 18th February 1989

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to have this opportunity very briefly to mention what I think all people have already heard a great deal about for some time, which is a particular problem which faces various parts of the world, in particular Africa, and what also faces Friends of Conservation.

I do not know whether many of you know that in Kenya and Uganda 85% of the elephant population has fallen to poachers since 1973 and in the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania, the next-door country, 50% of the elephant population has gone in 10 years. The reason for that is the increasing demand for ivory in Japan, the United States of America and Europe and the demand now being filled by an increasing number of young elephants with very small tusks. You can imagine the overall problem. In the Masai Mara Game Reserve there were 720 elephants in 1973 but now, due to the remarkable work of Friends of Conservation, 1100 elephants were there in 1987, so this is a remarkable increase in terms of the measures that have been taken by F.O.C. in all sorts of different ways.

With the situation as regards rhino, since 1980 the entire black rhino population has decreased from about 15,000 to less than 9,000 and the northern white rhino has been nearly eliminated: there are less than 25 left alive. This is what they believe. Now the reason for that, and I am sure most of you know, is the extraordinary interest in grinding up rhino horn and turning it into aphrodisiac – at least that’s what they think in the Far East. I could have done with some, I must say, out there on the polo ground this afternoon. And also there is a demand in the Yemen for rhino horn dagger handles, believe it or not.

Now the solutions to these problems are perhaps constant surveillance or fenced sanctuaries. I don’t think many of you would really like to see large blocks of Africa fenced off with 6 ft high electric fences, which is, of course, one option. But there’s no doubt about it that F.O.C. has shown that aerial surveys prove to be a deterrent to poaching and F.O.C. has supplied vehicles for anti-poaching, radio communication networks to coordinate the ranger activity, uniforms for increasing the morale of the underpaid rangers – a very important factor in the whole project – and also instituting a bonus system for rangers. And the extension of this approach is badly needed in other areas; for instance, in the Aberdares in Kenya, which I went to some years ago; in the Serengeti, which I visited at this time last year with Geoff and Jorie Kent and also the Ngorongoro Crater, which we also went to last year. Those areas are in particular need of this kind of approach.

Now the real problem, which I am sure again most of you will know, is that the longterm answer to all these complicated problems is very difficult indeed and involves, I think, the richer developed countries, which have cut down most of their habitat, exterminated several species of their wildlife and in some cases hunted down the native human population. It needs those countries to transfer resources to the developing countries in some way or another to enable them to integrate development with conservation – never an easy task, but a subject that really has to be taken seriously.

At the same time it seems to me there have to be economic incentives of one kind or another to protect these great wild areas of Africa and that is the challenge that we have to face. We also have to turn potential defeat into victory by finding positive methods to combat these problems. Above all, it seems to me we must talk with and consult the local people themselves who live in these areas and have done so for thousands of years. They are the people who know the country and who know its particular characteristics best of all. They have learnt those invaluable truths from their forebears, which so many laboratory educated scientists and expensively trained experts will never actually know. That is why so many terrible and costly mistakes are made all over the developing, and sometimes the developed, world because the experts think they know best and never actually consult the local people.

That is basically the problem. We have to rethink, I believe, our whole approach. It is a very complicated situation, not just the simple one of stopping poaching. It is a far more longterm problem and it needs people like yourselves and us, who have the time perhaps to think about it to realise we have to make a few sacrifices, particularly when we talk about things like the rain forest situation in South America, Indonesia, the Philippines and elsewhere. They are the lungs of this planet and it seems to me we have got to find a way of paying people to look after them and keep them in good order. It’s the only way of tackling the situation. Ladies and Gentlemen, Thank you for giving your time on this occasion.