The conference of world leaders gathered to tackle the threat to endangered animals like tigers, elephants and rhinos.
With his sons The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry by his side, His Royal Highness told the summit that the scale of the poaching crisis had reached “unimaginable heights” in certain countries, and there was “not a moment to lose” to safeguard threatened species.
All three have a long-standing commitment to support the end of wildlife crime. The Prince followed in the footsteps of his own father The Duke of Edinburgh to become President of WWF UK.
The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry focus on conservation as one of the main areas supported by their Royal Foundation.
In September, The Duke launched United for Wildlife, a collaboration between seven of the major wildlife charities including Conservation International; Fauna & Flora International; the International Union for Conservation of Nature; The Nature Conservancy; Wildlife Conservation Society; WWF UK; and the Zoological Society of London.
The Prince, a long-term campaigner on wildlife conservation, praised the leaders and foreign government ministers for meeting at Lancaster House in London to address the issue.
He said: “Today, if I may say so, you are breaking new ground by coming together and committing – at high levels never before seen at a conference on this topic – to take urgent action to put a stop to this trade, which has become a grave threat not only to the wildlife and the people who protect them, but also to the security of nations.”
He added: "Next month, I hope it will be possible to convene a meeting to encourage governments, banks, accounting firms, security agencies and others to make greater use of financial tools to tackle organised crime engaged in the illegal wildlife trade.
“As many experts are telling us, if we ‘follow the money’ and take back organised crime’s ill-gotten gains – now done of course to combat trafficking in drugs, weapons and people – we can send a strong message to criminals that there are serious consequences when they kill endangered wildlife for profit.”
The Prince of Wales told the delegates he played a part in helping to bring them together after a group of African leaders, including president Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, who is attending the conference, contacted him for help.
He said: "The situation they described was indeed dire. The scale of the poaching crisis their countries were facing had reached unimaginable heights.
“Organised gangs, terrorist groups and militia were slaughtering ever greater numbers of elephants for their ivory and rhinoceros for their horns. Most threatened of all, they said, is the elephant – an integral part of the ecological and social fabric of the African continent and a keystone species.”
The Prince said Asia’s wildlife was also being decimated but he gave an example of how successful anti-poaching campaigns could have results.
He said: "Late in the last decade, an aggressive public campaign led by WildAid and Chinese athlete Yao Ming – combined with government bans on the use of shark fin soup at government functions – caused a dramatic drop in public demand for the product."
The Prince concluded by saying: “There is not a moment to lose if we are to save species whose loss will not only diminish us all, but also expose their abandoned habitat to ever greater risk of destruction, with dire consequences for humanity.”
The Prince and his son The Duke of Cambridge have played a major role in a series of wildlife conservation initiatives this week.
The Duke addressed a symposium of leading conservationists gathered by his United for Wildlife umbrella organisation yesterday, and they have starred in a video calling on the world to turn its back on illegally traded animal parts like ivory and rhino horn.
Before the day-long conference began Their Royal Highnesses were shown a display of seized animal parts, from a tiger head and skin and rhino horn to bear bile and the skin of a Nile crocodile.
Grant Miller, a senior officer with the Border Force, told them about a recent seizure of ivory hidden in ball bearing parts and 12 live San Salvador rock iguanas from the Bahamas found in the luggage of two passengers stopped at Heathrow Airport.
It is hoped that the nations will sign a declaration that will commit them to a range of goals to combat poaching and illegal trade in animal parts.
In a short address Foreign Secretary William Hague outlined the steps the conference would agree to take to tackle the “unprecedented crisis”.