Prince William tells Chinese ‘elephants will be extinct by the time Princess Charlotte is 25’ unless they act now


By Gordon Rayner, Chief Reporter, The Telegraph

Date Published

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The Duke of Cambridge has made a direct appeal to the Chinese people to boycott ivory and other illegal wildlife products just hours before a landmark State visit by the country’s President Xi Jinping.

Speaking on Chinese state television, Prince William said elephants, rhino and other endangered species will be extinct by the time children born this year – including his daughter Princess Charlotte – reach the age of 25, unless China ceases its demand for poached wildlife parts. “Rhino horn cannot cure cancer,” he added.

President Xi’s four-day visit, which officially starts on Tuesday, is one of the most important by any visiting head of state in recent years. Downing Street said the visit will result in the completion of more than £30billion worth of trade and investment deals, creating over 3,900 UK jobs.

But it is also steeped in controversy: the Prince of Wales, who has strong opinions about China’s human rights record in the disputed territory of Tibet,will stay away from Tuesday night’s State banquet hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

One man who will be there is the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who will meet the Queen for the first time, though he still appeared to be agonising last night over whether to wear white tie to the banquet, as is traditional. His spokesman would only say that he will be “appropriately dressed”.

David Cameron has said no subject will be off the table during Mr Xi’s visit, though human rights are unlikely to be discussed. The Prime Minister said: “This is going to be a very important moment for British-Chinese relations. Trade and investment between our two nations is growing and our people-to-people links are strong.

“This visit will be an opportunity to review all of these things but also talk about how the UK and China can work together on global issues such as climate change and tackling poverty. It’s a real opportunity to deepen our relationship.”

Meanwhile the Duke of Cambridge recorded an address to the Chinese people which will be shown on the main state television channel, CCTV1, later this month. It is expected to be seen by between 100 million and 250 million people, by far the biggest audience for any speech by the Duke. Excerpts of his speech are already running on Chinese TV news bulletins.

The Duke told viewers that if they choose to boycott products of the illegal wildlife trade they will be spoken of with “great pride” by their great grandchildren.

And he acknowledged that the Royal family had been as guilty as anyone of encouraging the ivory trade in the past by buying ornaments made from elephant tusks.

He said: “Only last month President Xi announced that China will take steps to halt the domestic trade in ivory.

“But we know the illegal wildlife trade cannot be solved by governments alone. The spotlight falls back on all of us…we have to accept the truth that consumers are driving the demand for animal body parts, for art, for trinkets, for medicine.

“Only we as consumers can put the wildlife traffickers out of business, by ending our demand for their products.”

He accepted that in the past the Royal family had “little concern about acquiring ivory” and he was not judging past generations but speaking of “the world I want my children, George and Charlotte, to inherit”.

Following his successful official visit to China earlier this year, he was invited to be a guest speaker on the current affairs show Let’s Talk, and was given free rein to choose his own topic for the hour-long programme, as well as the panel members for a debate.

He chose the subject of the illegal wildlife trade, which he also raised in Beijing in March, and selected Sir David Attenborough, Bear Grylls and the former basketball star Yao Ming as guests. Both Sir David and Mr Grylls have a large following in China, and Yao Ming, who stands 7ft 6ins tall, is an ambassador for the Duke’s United For Wildlife umbrella group of conservation charities.

The Duke began his speech with some Mandarin he picked up in China, saying: “Xièxiè [thank you], Hen gaoxing he ni jianmian [I’m pleased to meet you].”

Speaking before an invited audience at King’s College London he went on: “In the 33 years since I was born we have lost around 70 percent of Africa’s elephant population. At this rate, children born this year – like my daughter Charlotte – will see the last wild elephants and rhinos die before their 25th birthdays.

“Let us not tell our children the sad tale of how we watched as the last elephants, rhinos and tigers died out, but the inspiring story of how we turned the tide and preserved them for all humanity.”

No 10 said that deals will be reached with the Chinese in sectors such as the creative industries, retail, energy, health and technology, financial services, aerospace and education.

Around £1billion of export deals will be agreed allowing British companies to send products to China.

Mr Cameron said he would raise the issue of the “dumping” of cheap steel with the Chinese president amid fears of fresh job losses in the crisis-hit industry.

Unions have warned that 5,200 steelworkers now face the prospect of losing their jobs following a series of announcements which have hit steelmaking areas across the UK.