A speech by The Duke of Cambridge at the End Wildlife Crime Conference, St. James's Palace

Published 21 May 2013

I sincerely hope that my generation is not the first on this planet to consider elephants, rhinos or tigers as historical creatures - in the same category as the Dodo.

Thank you, Kate. Ministers, ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to be here today and to have the privilege of addressing you all briefly.

Compared to any one of you in this room, I am no expert on the illegal wildlife trade. In fact I am more the young pretender - my father will pay testimony  to that. My remarks in fact, my plea to you today come not from a place of expertise, but from a place of deep respect for the world that we have inherited.  I have been fortunate to have been schooled in this respect by the examples of my grandfather The Duke of Edinburgh and my father, whose knowledge of this subject needs no introduction.

We all know how devastating the illegal wildlife trade is on populations of endangered species we have all heard the statistics.  My fear is that one of two things will stop the illegal trade: either we take action to stem the trade; or we will run out of the animals.  There is no other outcome possible.

I sincerely hope that my generation is not the first on this planet to consider elephants, rhinos or tigers as historical creatures - in the same category as the Dodo.  These creatures are still with us, their magnificence more wonderful than anything we could ever create in our imaginations, and they enrich our world immeasurably.  Their majesty contrasts to the ugliness of the illegal trade that destroys them through greed or ignorance.

The charismatic fauna which we are meeting to protect offer the world not just beauty, but far more prosaically incalculable social and economic benefits to rural communities.   The poaching crisis and illegal trade is, I believe, a form of 'economic sabotage' of diverse communities in the range states.  Tackling illegal wildlife trade would bring about numerous benefits - as we have already heard today - in poverty alleviation, the reduction of organised crime and better security.

So, I ask myself - what can be done about it?  The problem is enormous.  The destruction of whole species in order to flaunt their parts as ornaments is not a thing of the past anywhere in the world.

I can offer no answers, since the expertise lies with you.  Nonetheless, I have asked my Foundation to look at ways in which we might engage young people from all over the world to help shape public opinion and to educate about animal parts that are traded illegally.  Now is the time for young people who believe passionately about protecting these species to speak out. Education of the next generation of end users is a crucial part of the solution, and I hope that I can help in this regard.  I think that the consumer deserves to know that the illegal animal parts’ fashionable and luxurious image is at odds with the barbarity of how these animal parts are obtained.

Before I finish, I would like to show you a film, which my Foundation collated from young people who don’t just think as I do, but who are making a difference in their communities to ensure that their inheritance survives and thrives.

For many of these people in the film, protecting these charismatic fauna is not simply about protecting something beautiful.  These animals represent a livelihood, especially for so many remote and rural villages it is often all a community has to survive on.

These young wildlife ambassadors as you'll see are determined to protect their own communities from illegal trade, but they will need more than their passion to succeed.  The example of these young people is truly heartening, and so is their plea to all of us here.  Please help them.

I look forward to meeting many of you shortly.  I hope you enjoy the short film.

Thank you.