This legacy is not ours to squander.The Duke of Cambridge
Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m quite certain that you’ll all want to join me in congratulating Tusk Trust – this inspirational charity – on 20 years of unequalled and phenomenal service to Africa, its people and its wildlife.
For Tusk is defined not just by over a hundred amazing projects in Africa, but also by the ground-breaking educational programmes that it has developed for local communities throughout the Continent, and at schools over here as well. If you haven’t already seen Tusk’s PACE environmental education films and books, I urge you to do so: they are quite extraordinary.
The imperative of balancing conservation of wildlife and natural resources with the ever-growing needs of the human race is at the heart of the great challenge facing mankind today. Tusk realised this 20 years ago and, in many areas of radical thinking about sustainable development, the charity in its sensitive and self-effacing way continues to illuminate the path for us – having an effect out of all proportion to its size; there are, incredibly, just 5 core members of the Tusk Team!
I first saw what Tusk was doing on the ground 10 years ago at Lewa in Kenya. I missed meeting Charlie then by thirty minutes, but we met soon afterwards and - as most of you will know - once met our Charlie is just impossible to shake off…!
Ever since that first exposure to Tusk’s sponsored programmes in Northern Kenya, where the charity and its partners work shoulder-to-shoulder with local tribes-people – as they do everywhere - I have been struck by what a great example of ‘One World’ co-operation and understanding this extraordinary Tusk represents.
But for all that Tusk has done, there is still so much more to do. We cannot be complacent for one minute. As Charlie has mentioned, recent weeks have seen the price of rhino horn rocket in Far Eastern markets, leading to an extremely worrying upsurge in poaching, heavily armed gangs targeting sanctuaries from The Cape to Kenya.
Equally worrying is the turtle population, which continues to be decimated by illegal fishing, poaching and the development of their historic nesting sites. The answer - at least in part - lies in Tusk’s integrated approach of education, sustainable development and conservation.
As a very quick, unrelated aside on rhino, I’m sure all of us here tonight would wish every success to the desperately important fight to save the Northern White Rhino, currently underway at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. I’d just like to take this opportunity quickly, if I may, to thank the Czech people for their far-sightedness. For it is they who have given us a slim chance of preserving this wonderful species by safe-guarding the surviving family of Rhino, and then allowing their transfer back to their natural breeding habitat in Africa. And, good news on their part is that three wild northern whites, possibly the last, have just been photographed in Southern Sudan, giving real hope for their continued survival.
Back to Charlie, Tusk’s pocket battleship. He is a dynamo – we all know that – but he is supported by an equally dynamic board and team in Dorset. But their magnificent achievements over the past twenty years simply would not have been possible without the generosity and belief of Tusk’s loyal benefactors, both large and small. I know that Tusk will be redoubling its fund-raising efforts in the future, including through exciting new initiatives such its Endowment Fund.
We must all help…help to ensure that, for the communities Tusk serves in Africa, and for the awe-inspiring wildlife with which they co-exist, that the next twenty years are ever more life-enhancing and secure.
Future generations must have the chance to wonder at the Continent’s spell-binding natural heritage for themselves. We owe it to them. This legacy is not ours to squander. And in this cause, Tusk is a great Champion.
Therefore, I would say - on behalf of everyone who has ever come into contact with Tusk - thank you. I am so immensely proud to be your Patron. Here’s to the next twenty years!