In his first speech as Prince of Wales, William champions wildlife | Nation/world

LONDON (AFP) – Prince William delivered his first speech as heir to the British throne at a wildlife conservation summit on Tuesday, suggesting the royal family will continue to champion environmental issues as King Charles III is forced to back off a front-line campaign.

William delivered the keynote address at the United World Wildlife Summit in London, addressing nearly 300 representatives of law enforcement agencies, conservation groups and companies working to combat the trade in illegal wildlife products, which is estimated to be worth $20 billion annually.

The prince and his Royal Institution set up United Wildlife Confederations in 2014 to protect the endangered species from the illegal trade in goods such as elephant ivory and rhino horn. Working with organizations targeting money laundering and other forms of organized crime, the group says it has trained more than 100,000 people and contributed to about 250 arrests and 200 seizures of illegal animal products around the world.

William told the crowd that the natural world is a gift that everyone should protect.

“It is a lesson I learned from a young age, from my father and grandfather, both committed naturalists in their own right, and also from my much-missed grandmother, who cared so much about the natural world,” he said, referring to Charles, the late Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II. “In times of loss, it is comforting to honor those we miss through the work we do.”

William cited the recent conviction of a 49-year-old man on charges of wildlife smuggling as an example of the way agencies are working across borders to tackle the problem.

Mowaso Kruma, a native of Liberia, conspired with two other men to smuggle about 190 kilograms (419 pounds) of rhino horn and 10 tons of ivory from various East African countries to buyers in the United States and Southeast Asia from 2012 to 2019, according to the US Department of Justice. The department said that it is likely that about 35 rhinos and 100 elephants were hunted to save this weight of material.

Krumah, 49, was extradited to New York from Uganda in 2019. He pleaded guilty to three counts of wildlife trafficking earlier this year and was sentenced to 63 months in prison.

The Justice Department said the conviction was the result of cooperation between authorities in Uganda and Kenya, as well as the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

But despite these successes, violent criminals continue to poach because of the huge profits from the illegal wildlife trade, William said. Anton Mzimba, the wildlife ranger who was shot dead outside his home in South Africa earlier this year, is believed to have been one of their victims.

“Anton has devoted himself to protecting wildlife, and has undertaken his role diligently and professionally despite the threats to his life,” said the prince. He stood up to violent criminals and paid the ultimate price. It is only right that we pay tribute to him and all the selfless guards and environmentalists on the front lines here today.”

William’s speech came less than a month after he became heir to the throne as his father, now King Charles III, became king following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The choice of venue makes clear that environmental protection will remain a royal priority, although Charles will likely back down from a cause he has championed for 50 years.

Under the rules governing the constitutional monarchy in Britain, the sovereign is prohibited from interfering in political issues. To ensure that she complied with these rules, Elizabeth kept her opinions to herself throughout her long reign.

While Charles has admitted that he will have to be more careful with his public statements now that he is king, he has also made clear that he intends to move the baton.

“It will no longer be possible for me to give so much of my time and energies to charities and causes in which I care most,” the new king said in his first address to the nation. “But I know this important work will continue in the trusted hands of others.”

William’s commitment to the environment was evident last summer when he spoke during an internationally televised concert outside Buckingham Palace to celebrate 70 years of the late Queen’s accession to the throne.

With images of a lush green forest projected onto the walls of the mansion behind him, William called for international cooperation in the fight against climate change.

“Together, if we harness the best of humanity, and take back our planet, we will protect it for our children, grandchildren and future generations,” he said.

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