Published 15 March 2016

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us here at Buckingham Palace for the signing of this declaration.

Lord Hague, on behalf of everyone here, can I say a huge, huge thank you. Just over a year ago you and I sat down to discuss the weaknesses in transportation systems that criminal traffickers were exploiting to move illegal wildlife products from killing field to market place.

I asked you to bring together an international group of leaders from the transportation, customs and conservation sectors to develop a plan of action to crack down on trafficking routes. That we are here today signing such a plan in this historic room is a testament, William, to your skill, commitment, and energy.

And to Tony and all of you who are about to sign this declaration, can I also say thank you. You have given us your time, your expertise, and your passion to develop this plan to fight criminal traffickers.

From an original group of 12 members, today 40 leaders representing hundreds of organisations will commit to this ambitious declaration. All of you have my greatest thanks.

The signatories to this declaration represent a diverse group of nations, industries, and backgrounds. What unites us all is an understanding of the real gravity of the poaching crisis.

We have faced up to the fact that if current trends continue, the last wild African elephants and rhinos will be killed before my daughter Charlotte reaches her 25th birthday.

We have accepted that if we let some of our most iconic species go extinct on our watch, our collective confidence to tackle any conservation or environmental challenge will take a massive blow.

And we have accepted that the poaching crisis is not just a tragedy because of the impact it is having on animals, but because of its effect on some of the most vulnerable people on our planet. Poachers and traffickers are bringing brutal violence into desperately poor parts of the world.

Two rangers are dying every week trying to protect these animals.

Communities are seeing their long-term livelihoods extinguished as the species they rely on to attract tourists begin to disappear from their regions.

Committed public servants in law enforcement, customs, ports and highways are seeing their work undermined by the corruption that traffickers leave in their wake.

We are here today because we have faced up to these facts. But more importantly, we are here today because we have faced up to our responsibility to do something about it.

The poaching crisis is unique in that it is largely without controversy. Unlike some pressing environmental and conservation challenges, on poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, there is a widespread acceptance of the urgency and scale of the potential disaster we are facing.  Everyone agrees that losing these animals from the wild would be a disaster for humanity.

This means that halting this crisis is only a test of our will. The question is: can we be bothered to do our bit?  By signing this declaration, you, the leaders of some of the most important transportation companies and agencies on earth are answering with an emphatic, ‘yes’.

Now, while I am hugely grateful for all that you have done, I am afraid the hard work is actually still in front of us. If we are to prove that the transportation industry and customs agencies are really stepping up to the plate, we have to quickly implement the commitments we are agreeing today.

Let's implement these commitments with the urgency the task requires. It is my view that if we have not turned this crisis round within the next five years, we will have lost this battle forever.  We will have failed to protect the animals on the ground.

We will have failed to close down the trafficking routes.

And most importantly, we will have failed to stop the demand.

Let's step up to the challenge.

We cannot afford to waste a single day.