Prince William close to breakthrough in battle against illegal ivory trade


Gordon Rayner, and Mike Pflanz in Nairobi, The Telegraph

Date Published

See link for photos.

The Duke of Cambridge is close to a breakthrough in his battle against the illegal wildlife trade after China agreed to send a delegation to a high-level meeting on the subject in London this week.

China is the world’s biggest market for ivory and rhino horn, and stamping out demand for body parts of endangered species is key to ending poaching and saving them from extinction.

The Duke has embarked on a charm offensive in China which included his official visit earlier this year and an appearance on a current affairs programme devoted to the issue of the wildlife trade, which now seems to be paying dividends.

This week the charity Save The Elephants reported a sharp drop in the price of ivory in China, a result of falling demand and the slow-down of the country’s economy.

On Wednesday, December 9 Lord Hague, the former foreign secretary, will chair a meeting of the Duke’s United for Wildlife task force on the transportation of banned wildlife products, where China’s presence will provide a huge boost to the chances of success.

He told The Daily Telegraph: “It’s highly unusual for China to send a delegation to something like this, a meeting organised by the Duke of Cambridge, chaired by a former foreign secretary, and involving NGOs and private companies. It’s an indication of the progress we have made.

“Bringing them into this group is a very, very important development that is potentially a major step forward.”

Last December the Duke asked Lord Hague to chair a task force aimed at cracking down on the transportation of illegal wildlife products, to disrupt the poachers’ trade routes and provide a short-term fix while others work on the long-term aim of ending demand.

Its members include the heads of some of the world’s biggest freight firms, wildlife charities and transport trade bodies, who will meet in London to agree on a strategy to prevent the transport of ivory and other goods which will be made public early next year.

Among those eagerly awaiting the outcome will be Prince Harry, who was pictured in South Africa last week where he voiced his anger as he was shown the carcass of a poached rhino.

Lord Hague said: “Although there is still much to agree on, the key steps include the timely sharing of information within the transport industry and a commitment to act on it, a zero tolerance approach to poached goods and bringing ports up to a higher standard where there is a known problem with these items passing through.

Prince Harry, seen here inspecting the carcass of a rhino killed by poachers for its horn, is also a backer of United for Wildlife  Photo: @KensingtonRoyal

“It isn’t easy because tusks, rhino horns and other items take up very little space among the vast numbers of shipping containers moving around every day, which can’t all be searched. That’s why intelligence is key.”

  In the past year China has not only agreed to attend the United for Wildlife meeting, but has also committed to phasing out its legal trade in ivory products made from old stock, destroyed 600kg of seized ivory and prosecuted traders.

Save The Elephants said that over the last 18 months the price of illegal raw ivory in China has almost halved from £1,400 per kilo to £734 per kilo.

Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save The Elephants, said: “The fall in the price of ivory gives us hope, but with numbers of elephants still being killed in Africa we’re a long way from celebrating yet. Grave threats remain, and it’s vital that the complete ban in China is enforced soon.”

Vietnam and Thailand, the other two major markets for the products, have also upped their game: Thailand has burned 2,000kg of ivory and Vietnam is hosting the next conference of governments on the subject.

Sir Tim Clark, the president of Emirates airlines and a member of the task force, said: “We have banned hunting trophies from our cargo, whether legal or illegal, I just won’t carry them.

“We are putting information in seat pockets and using voiceovers to educate our passengers. So many people still believe that elephants are culled because there are too many of them or that they’re helping communities in Africa by buying these products, when nothing could be further from the truth.”