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The Duke of Cambridge made a personal reference to his daughter Princess Charlotte as he highlighted the threat to one of the “most treasured species” at a conservation event in London.
Speaking at Time For Change – an event organised by the conservation charity Tusk, of which he is a patron, the prince said at current illegal poaching rates when Charlotte turns 25, the African elephant “will be gone from the wild”.
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 Savanna elephants had crashed to just 350,000.
“At the current rate of illegal poaching when Charlotte turns 25, the African elephant will be gone from the wild.”
Prince William also highlighted the threat to rhinos as well as elephants as a result of the ongoing poaching crisis.
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,” he said.
“We have the chance to say that rhino horn does not cure anything and does not need a legal market.”
William ‘not prepared’ to let iconic species disappear
The prince insisted that he was not prepared to be part of a generation that lets these “iconic species disappear from the wild”.
“I’m not prepared to explain to our children why we lost this battle when we had to tools to win it.”
“I fear we will not know what we have lost until it has gone,” he added.
But William also stressed there is hope as “huge momentum is building from governments, businesses, conservationists and the public to take the steps required to stop the killing”.
His comments come ahead of a major global conference in South Africa, where countries will vote on the closure domestic ivory markets.
It is one of several key proposals which will be on the agenda at the 17th meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).
UK plans ban on the sale of ivory less than 70 years old
Plans have been announced for a ban sale of ivory unless it can be proved it dates back more than 70 years.
It will cover the sale of items containing ivory dated between 1947 and the present day.
Trade in ‘worked’ items, such as works of art and ornaments dating from before 1947 (deemed ‘antiques’) will continue to be permitted.
The UK already has a total ban on trade in raw tusks, or ‘unworked’ ivory, of any age.
Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “This ban will send the message that the ivory trade is a thing of the past.
“I hope it increases pressure on other nations to implement bans and save our elephants before they disappear.”
Key proposals that will be on the agenda at CoP17
Closure of domestic markets for ivory
This proposal calls for all governments to shutdown any existing domestic ivory markets for trade in raw and worked ivory.
It has been argued that it allows the demand for ivory to continue and provides opportunities for illegal ivory to be laundered in legal markets.
Destruction of ivory stockpiles
Following Kenya’s burning of 105 tonnes of elephant ivory earlier this year in an anti-poaching message, this proposal endorses further stockpile destruction.
Banning the export of live African elephants
If a ban is introduced it would also end the export of African elephants to overseas zoos.