The Duke of Cambridge spoke at the first United for Wildlife joint taskforce on Tuesday, when the financial and transport sectors met to discuss ways to join forces to combat the illegal wildlife trade.
The joint taskforce took place at the Royal Geographical Society, and was chaired by Lord William Hague, the Chairman of the United for Wildlife’s international trade taskforce. Speakers from both the financial and transport sectors also spoke about how they operate and how they work with law enforcement on illegal wildlife trade.
William then gave a speech highlighting the work of both sectors.
“When we embarked on this work, bringing the private sector together with law enforcement, government and NGOs, our collective ambition was to build something that would significantly disrupt the illegal wildlife trade,” William said.
He spoke about how there were only 12 members in the organisation’s transport sector three years ago and how that number has grown to over 150 within transport and finance in “a transportation taskforce that spans the globe; and a financial taskforce that has quickly followed suit.”
The transport taskforce was formed in 2014 while the financial taskforce was formed in 2018. The taskforces have supported 52 law investigations and 10 trafficker arrests since their formations, as well as over $500,000 in illegal animal products, but William also pointed out the work left to be achieved.
“…Although we have made progress, we are barely scratching the surface of what we can achieve. So let today be a catalyst for our renewed ambition.
“The scale of what we are dealing with remains deeply worrying. In the last four months there have been nine significant seizures in South East Asian countries alone involving tonnes of pangolin scales, rhino horns and ivory. We should count these seizures as successes in the fight against this crime. But for every container that is intercepted, or every suspicious payment that is flagged, hundreds go undetected.”
“And when containers are found, too often the real perpetrators slip away. It is only through continued, committed partnership between transport companies, the financial sector, and law enforcement – who I know are represented in the room today – that we will bring these criminals to justice through successful prosecutions.”
Speaking to the experts in the transport and financial sectors in the room, William said that they were poised to make a difference by virtue of the knowledge and tools they possess to effect change.
“I have stood at meetings like this many times over the years, where we have all discussed how important we think it is to end the illegal wildlife trade, and all shared our fears for the future. But we must, we must ensure these words become action. We must start to see the people behind this evil crime behind bars.”
In October 2018, the financial taskforce signed a collective agreement, known as the Mansion House Declaration, that they would not “knowingly facilitate or tolerate financial flows that are derived from the illegal wildlife trade and associated corruption,” and would work to share intelligence and resources on ways to stop money from passing through this $23 billion industry.
The transport taskforce works with companies in the transport industry to “identify any role it plays in illegal wildlife trade and looks at the ways that the sector can break the chain between suppliers and consumers,” per United for Wildlife’s official website.
“When we all meet again, I look forward to hearing about even more progress. It is possible – we all know this. It just takes sustained effort, focus and collaboration.”
William formed United for Wildlife in 2012 as a part of The Royal Foundation and works to “tackle the illegal wildlife trade by bringing together conservation organisations, governments and global corporations” to protect endangered species such as elephants, rhinos, tigers and pangolins.