Prince William says he fears the African elephant will have disappeared from the wild due to poaching by the time Princess Charlotte turns 25.
The prince told the audience of campaigners and policymakers at Time For Change – an event organised by the conservation charity Tusk, of which he is a patron – that he was “not prepared to be part of a generation that lets these iconic species disappear from the wild”.
In a sometimes passionate speech ahead of a global meeting on wildlife protection, he said personal greed was at the root of a crisis that threatened to impoverish everyone.
He said: “When I was born, there were one million elephants roaming Africa.
“By the time my daughter Charlotte was born last year, the numbers of savannah elephants had crashed to just 350,000.
When Charlotte turns 25 they will be gone
“And at the current pace of illegal poaching, when Charlotte turns 25 the African elephant will be gone from the wild.”
William has made wildlife crime and conservation a personal cause and has lobbied the presidents of China, the US and African countries to strengthen protection.
The Duke warned that rhinos face extinction in “our lifetimes” during the speech given at 800ft (244 metres) above London at The View from The Shard on Thursday.
He said it was now time to send an “unambiguous message” that it is no longer acceptable to buy or sell ivory or rhino horn.
“We have the chance to say that ivory is a symbol of destruction, not of luxury, and not something that anyone needs to buy or sell.
“We have the chance to say that rhino horn does not cure anything and does not need a legal market.”
William was speaking ahead of a major global conference in Johannesburg this weekend, of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites). He added: “Materialistic greed cannot be allowed to win against our moral duty to protect threatened species and vulnerable communities.”
Governments will be asked to increase protection for elephants, lions, monkeys and nearly 500 other species at the two-week meeting.
One of the most contentious issues will be the international trade in elephant ivory. This is strictly forbidden, but Namibia and Zimbabwe want the ban lifted so they can sell stockpiles and fund community elephant conservation initiatives. The move contradicts proposals put forward by a coalition of 29 other African countries that want a complete end to the ivory trade.
Britain this week said it planned to close a loophole which allows antique dealers to sell ivory items without rigorous checks on its provenance, but high profile MPs, conservationists and scientists wrote to Theresa May to say a total ban is needed. Sales of ivory which cannot be proven to be over 70 years old will be banned.
Broadcaster and campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, whose TV series on wildlife crime will be aired next month, called for an immediate ban on all ivory sales. “It is entirely possible that the elephant and the rhino could be made extinct in the wild. It is time critical. Every day four rhinos are shot dead by poachers and 80 elephants are hacked down and traded,” he said, speaking at the Shard.
“It boils down to a simple choice. We must decide whether to keep allowing the legal trade of rhino and elephant ivory, or eradicate it. I have taken sides in this debate. The legal trade stimulates the market and provides cover for poached ivory. The illegal wildlife trade is now at $20bn a year, exceeded only the trade in drugs, arms and people,” he said.
By John Vidal. Source: The Guardian