Prince William wants to end the illegal wildlife trade for good.
The Duke of Cambridge spoke during a virtual meeting of the United for Wildlife Taskforces and leading conservation organizations Wednesday.
The webinar brought together experts from around the world for a discussion on the urgent need to end the illegal wildlife trade, the impact of COVID-19 on conservation, and the links between zoonotic diseases and the wildlife trade.
The event was chaired by Lord Hague of Richmond, chair of the United for Wildlife Taskforces; speakers included Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity; Dr. Zhi Lu of Peking University; Peter Knights, CEO of WildAid; and Dr. Peter Daszak from the EcoHealth Alliance.
William spoke of the coronavirus crisis during the meeting, “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.”
The royal’s speech included, “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 organizations, 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.”
Lord Hague, who chaired the event, shared: “From all over the world the companies in our Taskforces have shown a strong commitment to combatting the Illegal Wildlife Trade. Now a much greater global effort is required, not only to halt this destructive trade, but to help prevent future pandemics.”