The Prince of Wales and The Duke of Cambridge last week called on the highest levels of government to form a global partnership to stop the illegal trade in wildlife – a trade that presents a grave threat not only to our natural world, but also to our global security.
The conference took place in the St James’s Palace State Apartments, London.
The conference featured speeches from The Prince of Wales and The Duke of Cambridge, a short film highlighting WildAid's work with Yao Ming to end the demand for ivory in China, and remarks on effective demand reduction through communication by WildAid’s Executive Director, Peter Knights. The audience consisted of more than 160 NGOs and government representatives from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America that play a role in the illegal trade: those that are a source of the wildlife and related products; those where the contraband crosses their national borders; and those whose citizens fuel the demand for the illegal products.
“We face one of the most serious threats to wildlife ever, and we must treat it as a battle, because it is precisely that,” remarked HRH The Prince of Wales. “It is clearly vital to tackle the demand for such products amongst consumers by recruiting the help of every form of media to communicate more widely and effectively its disastrous consequences.”
“As a father and a soon-to-be grandfather, I find it inconceivable that our children and grandchildren could live in a world bereft of these animals,” he added. “Humanity is less than humanity without the rest of creation. Their destruction will diminish us all.”
In recent months, the killing of elephants and rhinos has reached epidemic levels with losses threatening certain populations of African elephant with extinction for the first time within a decade. Both the black and white rhino are also under unprecedented attack for their horn on a scale previously unseen. According to conference organizers, “experts are finding increasing evidence that the illegal activity is being driven by international organized criminal networks and, in some cases, terrorist and rebel militia groups. It seems no country with valuable wildlife populations is immune from the activity, which not only robs citizens of natural resources, but also contributes to global instability.”
“The poaching and trafficking crises invariably coincide with rapid economic growth in consuming markets,” said WildAid’s Knights. “We can only solve these crises in consuming nations as we did until 2008, with stronger laws in consuming countries and consumer awareness that reduced demand. When the buying stops, the killing can too.”
WildAid was honored to stand with The Prince of Wales and the British Government to put what has become a battle against wildlife trafficking at the top of the global agenda. The meeting focused on promoting international efforts to:
· reduce demand for endangered wildlife and related products in markets around the world;
· increase capacity for global law enforcement against the organized syndicates engaged in this activity;
· assist rural communities to find long-term, viable alternatives to the trade.
Convened by The Prince’s International Sustainability Unit (ISU) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), it is hoped that this conference will be the first stage in a process which will result in key countries signing a “Declaration” at a meeting in Autumn 2013 to commit at the highest levels to end the illegal trade in wildlife.