Prince William: 'Wildlife poaching in Africa must stop!

Prince William has given a passionate speech urging more to be done to protect African wildlife at the UK premiere of the film African Cats. Here is what he said:

8:35PM BST 25 Apr 2012

"Films like African Cats remind us of the dramatic beauty, and the harshness, of the natural world – and there is nowhere more awe-inspiring or beautiful than the vast plains of Kenya’s Maasai Mara. Africa’s natural heritage is the world’s natural heritage. We have to preserve places like this - not just for us, but for future generations.

African Cats shows graphically the battle for survival facing every lion and cheetah born in the wild. The natural challenges are formidable enough, without man’s interference. Loss of natural habitat, due to encroachment by human beings, is the principal reason that there are today around just 25,000 lions remaining in the African bush – 50 per cent less than 20 years ago.

There could be as few as 12,000 cheetahs. The population distribution of these marvellous creatures is patchy too. Kenya, with around 2,000 lions, has as many as all of West and Central Africa put together. This uneven geographic spread further lowers the species’ chances of achieving stable populations and, therefore, longer term survival.

I say this not to be despondent, but to sound a rallying call. We must act now, coherently and together, if the situation is to be reversed and our legacy - our global, natural legacy – preserved. Tomorrow will be too late.

The decline of big cats is, of course, of huge concern. But they’re not the only ones. Tusk and other conservation groups are now confronting the truly horrific situation effecting Africa’s elephant and rhinoceros. Both are being mercilessly and illegally poached at a rate not seen for decades. Unless this stops, these two majestic animals will be, in a few short years, but a memory in the wilds of Africa. This cannot happen. We must not let it.

But what can we do? As Patron of Tusk, I’ve seen for myself some of the outstanding results our work achieves. In Botswana, for instance, my brother and I visited an innovative project developing a bio-boundary technique to reduce conflict between farmers and natural marauders and predators.

Brilliant ideas such as this will help. But I have always believed in Tusk’s strategic vision that long-term success rests on educating people. Whether Africans, naturally worried about protecting their livestock from predators, or those on other continents who drive the demand for ivory and rhino horn – whoever they may be, people need to understand the consequences of the path we are currently taking.

They must be equipped with knowledge - and confidence to use that knowledge - to enable them to follow another path; one that harmonises the conservation of Africa’s wildlife and its habitats with the needs of human beings. This balanced and durable sustainability can only be achieved if the well-being of communities is seen as benefiting from, and being mutually reliant upon, a flourishing, stable wildlife population.

So, it’s about knowledge. For that reason, amongst many others, I want to thank Disney and Disneynature who, with ICAP, made Tusk the beneficiary of this wonderful film. African Cats is a great documentary. It is also a superb educative project in its own right. It will help many, many people around the world appreciate how extraordinary is our planet’s natural heritage – and how steadfastly it must be safeguarded.

I would just ask one thing of you: spread the word about the work of Tusk and other organisations engaged in this battle to preserve Africa’s unique natural heritage."

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