William calls for jail sentences for animal traffickers and poachers

The Duke of Cambridge has called for people involved in the “evil” illegal trade of animals to be jailed.

William said the trade “remains deeply worrying” as he spoke at a meeting of seven conservation organisations which have united to prevent the trafficking of animals and sale of poaching products.

The United for Wildlife programme, run by The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, aims to bring together the private sector, police, governments and non-governmental organisations to disrupt the trade in items such as ivory and rhino horn.

During the first meeting of the group’s two taskforces on Tuesday at the Royal Geographic Society in Kensington, west London, William said: “It has taken a lot of hard work and real commitment to get to the point where you are all sitting here together today. And we should all feel proud that we’re starting to see an impact. But it’s just that. The start.

“For, 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.”

The duke said that in the last four months there have been nine major seizures in south-east Asia alone, including rhino horns, ivory and tonnes of scales from pangolins (scaly anteaters).

He concluded: “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.

Duke of Cambridge and Woody Johnson
Duke of Cambridge and Woody Johnson

“But we must ensure these words become action. We must start to see the people behind this evil crime behind bars.”

This was the first joint meeting of the two taskforces since their formation, in which time they have supported 52 investigations, helped in the arrest of 10 traffickers and assisted with more than 500,000 dollars (£384,097) worth of seizures.

The transport taskforce, formed in 2014, develops solutions to wildlife trafficking, such as increasing awareness, reporting and enforcement.

In 2018 the financial taskforce was brought together to act on resources and intelligence to ensure any profit gained from criminal networks can be cut off.

The illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth up to 23 billion US dollars (£18 billion) a year.