The Prince of Wales paid tribute to the Queen as he warned that lives were being destroyed and too many species were facing extinction because of “sinister” wildlife crime.
Prince William, who is heir to the throne after the death of his grandmother, today addressed the United for Wildlife (UfW) global summit at the Science Museum in London – his first speech since the King bestowed him with his new title.
He said: “Our natural world is one of our greatest assets. It is a lesson I learnt from a young age, from my father and my grandfather, both committed naturalists in their own right, and also from my much-missed grandmother, who cared so much for the natural world.
“In times of loss, it is a comfort to honour those we miss through the work we do.
“I take great comfort, then, from the progress we are making to end the illegal wildlife trade.”
The prince’s keynote speech – on a topic he has long campaigned on – shone a light on the serious and organised nature of illegal wildlife activity and its damaging impact on global biodiversity and communities.
William, 40, said: “There are still too many criminals who believe they can act with impunity, too many lives being destroyed and too many species on the brink of extinction due to this heinous crime.
“[United for Wildlife] set out to ensure that those involved in wildlife crime face an international response as powerful and coordinated as any other serious and organised crime.
“To bring their sinister operations out of the shadows and to ensure that communities are equipped, empowered and supported to protect themselves and their natural world.”
The summit, hosted by Lord Hague, chairman of the Royal Foundation of the Prince and Princess of Wales, has brought together more than 300 global leaders from law-enforcement agencies, conservation organisations and private sector companies that are part of the UfW network.
The event will see speakers announce new policies and unveil partnerships in a bid to end the trade, which is worth up to £17bn a year and is associated with violent crime, corruption and other forms of trafficking.
In August, William declared “we can defeat the illegal wildlife trade” after a man was jailed for conspiring to traffic millions of dollars worth of rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory.
He called it a “significant victory” after US district judge Gregory H Woods sentenced Moazu Kromah to more than five years in prison.
Kromah was convicted of conspiring to traffic parts from the endangered species, which involved the illegal poaching of approximately 35 rhinoceros and more than 100 elephants.
Both William and his brother, Prince Harry, are keen hunters and shot from a young age. Their mother Diana, Princess of Wales, dubbed them her “killer Wales” because they enjoyed it so much.
In July, William paid tribute to “committed and brave” ranger Anton Mzimba, who was shot and killed outside his home.
William called for those responsible for the death of the conservationist, who worked in South Africa, to be “swiftly brought to justice”.
Mr Mzimba was head of ranger services at the Timbavati private nature reserve in northeast South Africa, near the Kruger National Park.
He spoke to William by video link last autumn when the royal visited a technology company to learn about a new device to combat ivory smugglers.
Ahead of his speech on Tuesday, William met Altin Gysman from the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC), who was a friend and colleague of Mr Mzimba.
William described the death as a “shocking moment” and referred to the ranger’s colleagues being “on the front line”.