In a significant development, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, announced that seven countries have made a commitment to intensify their efforts in combatting money laundering by international criminal gangs engaged in the illegal wildlife trade. The countries involved in this initiative are Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States. This announcement came during the United for Wildlife Summit held in Singapore, where the Prince addressed pressing issues related to wildlife conservation.
Alarming Decline in Global Wildlife Populations
Prince William highlighted the alarming decline in global wildlife populations, revealing that wildlife has diminished by nearly 70% over the past five decades. He emphasized that traffickers operating across more than 150 countries have been developing increasingly sophisticated networks to smuggle wildlife products via air, land, and sea. The illegal wildlife trade has created a global black market, making flora and fauna the fourth most-traded illegal commodity globally, with an estimated value of up to $20 billion.
Joint Investigations and Global Cooperation
Prince William stressed the need for joint investigations to lead to higher-value seizures and arrests, indicating the importance of coordinated international efforts to combat this illegal trade. He expressed hope that more governments would join in these endeavors. He emphasized that crucial knowledge about poaching, transportation routes, financial systems utilized by criminal networks, and the primary markets driving demand is already available, making it imperative to win the battle against this illegal trade.
Criminal Convergence and Human Crisis
The Prince also shed light on the interconnected nature of criminal activities, pointing out that gangs involved in trafficking rhino horn, tiger paws, and pangolin scales are often part of highly organized criminal networks that engage in drug, arms, and human trafficking. This convergence of criminal activities has transformed the illegal wildlife trade into a human crisis, leading to the tragic loss of more than 1,500 rangers in the line of duty, including over 600 in Asia.
United for Wildlife and The Earthshot Prize
United for Wildlife, established by Prince William’s Royal Foundation charity, is dedicated to addressing wildlife conservation issues and combating the illegal wildlife trade. Additionally, Prince William is in Singapore for the annual The Earthshot Prize awards ceremony, marking the first time the event has been held in Asia. The Earthshot Prize, initiated by Prince William and his charity in 2020, seeks to promote innovative solutions and technologies aimed at addressing global warming and protecting the environment.
The ceremony will honor winners in five categories: nature protection, clean air, ocean revival, waste elimination, and climate change. Each winner will receive £1 million ($1.2 million) to support the scaling up of their projects. The 15 finalists, representing six continents, were selected from a pool of 1,300 nominees.
The event will be co-hosted by actors Hannah Waddingham and Sterling K. Brown and will be attended by notable figures in the field of wildlife conservation and celebrities, including Oscar winner Cate Blanchett and actors Lana Condor and Nomzamo Mbatha.
Prince William also engaged in a variety of activities during his visit to Singapore, including dragon boating with the British Dragons club, a popular local sport. His visit reaffirms his commitment to environmental and wildlife conservation and highlights the importance of international collaboration to combat the illegal wildlife trade.