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

Published 21 November 2019

My generation and those following are acutely aware that we cannot simply carry on as we are.

The Duke of Cambridge

Thank you Kate, and good evening everybody.

I am delighted to be here again at the Tusk Conservation Awards.

Earlier today, Catherine and I spent some time with the nominees and finalists. Their bravery, single-minded determination, and commitment to African conservation is deeply deeply humbling.

So it’s fantastic this year that we’ve been able to see their exceptional work on such an exceptionally big screen!

These wonderful films really bring their powerful and inspiring stories to life. And they help to highlight these nominees’ fantastic work to a global audience. 

So thank you very much to all of tonight’s sponsors for their help in supporting these films, backing the awards, and making this evening possible.

Over the years, I have been lucky enough to visit a number of Tusk supported projects all across Africa, most recently in Namibia and Tanzania last year.

I’ve seen first-hand the hugely important work that people like our finalists do, day-in and day-out, to protect Africa’s wildlife.

Africa is still on the frontline of conservation.

And nothing brings that home more starkly than the sobering roll of honour that we have just seen. These brave men and women lost their lives fighting to protect the natural world.

Their tragic deaths are a terrible reminder of the human cost of this issue.

Tonight we remember their courage and selfless commitment.         

These conservationists and rangers have lost their lives because Africa remains at the forefront in the battle to end the illegal wildlife trade.

There have been big strides in recent years on banning the international ivory trade. But we have a long way to go in eradicating the trade in other animal parts that threaten so many other endangered species.   

You need look no further than the fact that in the last twenty-five years the number of wild African lions has halved to less than twenty-five thousand.

Their population is under serious threat from continuing loss of habitat, human wildlife conflict and poisoning.

And the fact that there is still a demand for lion parts and other animal products like rhino horn in the 21st century is disgraceful and baffling. 

Of course, Governments have a major part to play in legislating against the illegal wildlife trade. But it isn’t their job alone.

Business must also step up their efforts to make the trade impossible.

That is why the work of the Transport and Financial Sector Taskforces in tackling IWT is so important.

In the transport sector, it is promising that the airline and global shipping industries have proposed new regulations to ensure tackling illegal wildlife trade is an industry standard.

And in the financial sector, I’m particularly encouraged that FATF – the intergovernmental body that sets the standards for combating money laundering – will prioritise the illegal wildlife trade this year. 

This is a crucial step in incentivising the international financial system to treat the illegal wildlife trade as a serious organised crime. 

It is only through cooperation and partnership between Governments, NGOs, businesses and law enforcement, that we will make this trade unprofitable and too high risk for these global criminal networks.  

And of course, this will both protect Africa’s precious wildlife, and the communities whose livelihoods and futures depend on it.

As we approach the start of a new decade, the challenge ahead of us is clear and urgent.

Climate change, human population growth, exploitation of natural resources, and habitat loss all pose major threats to the precious balance of our natural world.

My father has been ringing the alarm bell on these issues for years. He inherited his passion for the environment from my grandfather, and passed it on to the next generation.

Right now, young people the world over are ringing that planetary alarm bell louder and with more determination than ever before.

My generation and those following are acutely aware that we cannot simply carry on as we are. We have to move faster and more effectively to find ways to balance our demands on this planet with the nature we share it with.  

But we must resist the tendency to look at these environmental challenges with shock, despondency or pessimism. 

So as we approach 2020 – being described as a ‘super year’ for the environment - let us instead seize the opportunity of a new decade to move forward with optimism and action.

If we put our collective minds, energy and resources to it, we have the ability to reset the planet and show the generations that follow us that we rose to the challenges we faced.  

Let me finish by congratulating our finalists and award winners again, and thanking Tusk for shining a spotlight on their incredible achievements through these awards.

Carlos, Tomas, Gladys, Jeneria, Benson and their colleagues are truly inspiring and give us all hope that change is truly possible.

Thank you.