A speech by The Duke of Cambridge at a virtual meeting of the United for Wildlife Taskforces

Published 15 July 2020

Right now, there is a real chance to ensure that the urgent steps that the world must take to prevent future zoonotic disease pandemics are designed in a way that also helps to eradicate the illegal wildlife trade.

Thank you Lord Hague and hello everyone.

It is very encouraging to see so many of you taking part in this important discussion today. Believe it or not, this is my first webinar! I’m very pleased that it is on a subject that is so close to my heart – ending the Illegal Wildlife Trade.

Thank you very much to SalesForce for providing the platform for today’s discussion. And thank you to DP World, without whose support the work of the United for Wildlife Taskforces would not be possible.

I last spoke to you all back in January, alongside President Kenyatta of Kenya.

We celebrated the successes of the Taskforces – your successes – in making it far harder for traffickers to exploit the vulnerabilities of the global transport and financial systems to profit from this senseless crime.

We agreed on the need for concerted action in 2020, and throughout the coming decade, to double down on this progress and ensure that criminals no longer believe the illegal wildlife trade is worth the risk.

But 2020 has taken a different, heart-breaking course from what we had expected back in January.

The COVID-19 pandemic has ruined lives and threatened livelihoods across the world. It is important that we learn the lessons from this pandemic, including looking at why the outbreak happened, why it was not stopped earlier, and what can be done to manage any outbreak in the future. That’s why I’m pleased that Helen Clark and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf are leading an independent review to ensure that the right lessons are learned.

No country is immune. And many of your own businesses, particularly in the travel sector, have of course been hit extremely hard.

Sadly the conservation sector is suffering too. Crucial tourism revenue has largely dried up, and it will be many months, perhaps even years, before it recovers.

Rangers’ salaries are at risk, and there are early indications that economic hardship may be leading more people to turn to poaching.

The Uganda Wildlife Authority recorded more than double the incidents of poaching in their parks between February and May this year than last year.

Yet, as we continue to face up to the ongoing shocks of this crisis there is a notable opportunity for those of us committed to ending the illegal wildlife trade.

Never before have the public health risks of the wildlife trade come into such sharp focus.

Never before has there been greater public awareness about the dangers of zoonotic diseases like Ebola, SARS, MERS and COVID.

And never before has the global incentive to act been so high.

Right now, there is a real chance to ensure that the urgent steps that the world must take to prevent future zoonotic disease pandemics are designed in a way that also helps to eradicate the illegal wildlife trade.

This will require concerted effort and teamwork from international organisations, governments, law enforcement, the NGO community and the private sector. United for Wildlife, and all of you as Taskforce members, have a crucial role to play.

But the illegal wildlife trade is symptomatic of a wider challenge: humanity’s unsustainable relationship with nature. This is something I hope to start addressing later this year with The Earthshot Prize. This will seek, amongst other things, to inspire and celebrate the transformational work required to protect nature and biodiversity. I look forward to sharing more details soon.

Let me finish by thanking you, and your teams, for all that you are doing around the world in support of the Taskforces. Together we have built the foundations and the expertise. We must now capitalise on that hard work.

I hope that you leave this meeting inspired to do even more in your own organisations and in partnership with others in this fight. Keep innovating. Keep pushing. And together we will bring these criminals to justice.

I know that times are tough for many of you, and will remain so for a while. But despite that, I hope that you will agree that this unique moment calls for unique action to really end the illegal wildlife trade for good.

Thank you and I look forward to listening to the discussion.