A speech by The Duke of Cambridge at the Tusk Awards 2016


Our natural heritage does not belong to us – I believe we simply hold it, in trust, for our children and grandchildren. Wherever we are in the world, we must all play our part and make the right decisions today to preserve the future.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen,

I am particularly delighted to be here once again at the Tusk Conservation Awards as we celebrate the exceptional achievements of our award winners and finalists this evening.

First of all, I would like to acknowledge the invaluable support of all of Tusks' corporate partners, in particular Investec, without whom these awards would not be possible.  And, this year, I am particularly delighted that with the addition of I.S.P.S. Handa’s support, Tusk can now stage a gathering of leading conservationists in Africa to exchange ideas and encourage greater collaboration and support. 

As ever, tonight I have been humbled by the sheer dedication and commitment that all of our 2016 nominees have shown, in preserving – against the odds – our precious natural world.  To you all, I offer my heartfelt thanks and warmest congratulations.

We have heard about the remarkable life-long commitment of Manuel working to save the critically endangered Giant Sable in Angola and how, in the line of duty, he almost lost his leg in a vicious poacher’s gin-trap.  The war being fought against poachers is brutal, with so many men and women dying to protect their communities' natural heritage. A very human tragedy, all too clearly brought home to me tonight when I met the family of Roger Gower, who tragically lost his life in Tanzania this year. 

One cannot help but be inspired by Manuel; or by John protecting gorillas in Central Africa, or by Olivier, Rachel and Cathy who strive, day in, day out, to protect wildlife through community conservation.  The number and quality of the nominations this year once again shines a spotlight on some remarkable people working across Africa as unsung heroes in their field.  Their work is dangerous but vitally important – and we are immensely grateful for it.

But for conservation to succeed, they need help. They must be supported by a highly effective and well-funded chain of command and a system of integrated management that ultimately binds the work of the rangers on the ground with their senior wildlife managers; the vets; the scientific researchers; community development officers and law enforcement agencies.  And it does not stop there – we must have the support of the judiciary and of Government if we are to succeed.

If that sounds complicated, let's remember that the illegal wildlife trade is the fourth biggest illegal trade in the world after drugs, weapons and human slavery.  Its criminal overlords often engage in all these areas – so the bravery of our rangers and award nominees should be remembered in that brutal and difficult context.

This year, the international community has reaffirmed its commitment to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.  Two overwhelming votes – one at the IUCN World Congress and the other at the CITES conference – both urging the closure of domestic markets in ivory and calling for the tightening of legislation.  

I am encouraged by this and applaud the leadership shown to date by President Obama and by President Xi of China, as they pledge to close their respective ivory markets.  But we need other Governments to follow their lead.

Our natural heritage does not belong to us – I believe we simply hold it, in trust, for our children and grandchildren.  Wherever we are in the world, we must all play our part and make the right decisions today to preserve the future. 

There is one person here tonight who has done more than almost anyone else to 'play his part' – someone who has literally gone to the ends of the earth to showcase the beauty of our planet’s wildlife and the critical need for us to preserve it.

Through his work and dozens of award winning films, Sir David Attenborough has inspired generations of conservationists to dedicate their lives to this cause. For this, in your ninetieth year, we at Tusk would like to take this opportunity to recognise and thank you, David, for your remarkable life-long contribution to protecting Africa’s wildlife. 

Sir David, may I ask you to return to the stage for a small token of our appreciation.