"Economic hardship may be leading more people to turn to poaching," Prince William warned of the impact of the coronavirus on conservation efforts

By Stephanie Petit
July 16, 2020 10:59 AM
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Prince William
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Prince William is calling for the world to address the illegal wildlife trade with renewed urgency amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The royal, 38, appeared in his first-ever webinar on Wednesday for a virtual meeting of the United for Wildlife Taskforces, an organization he spearheaded in 2014 to bring together those working to prevent species extinction. William spoke about how the COVID-19 crisis has impacted conservation efforts across the world.

"Crucial tourism revenue has largely dried up, and it will be many months, perhaps even years, before it recovers," he said.

Prince William also noted how the pandemic could increase the illegal hunting or capturing of wild animals.

"Rangers' salaries are at risk, and there are early indications that economic hardship may be leading more people to turn to poaching," he noted. "The Uganda Wildlife Authority recorded more than double the incidents of poaching in their parks between February and May this year than last year."

But Prince William encouraged listeners to learn from this pandemic — and said there is no better time to take action.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has ruined lives and threatened livelihoods across the world," he said. "It is important that we learn the lessons from this pandemic, including looking at why the outbreak happened, why it was not stopped earlier, and what can be done to manage any outbreak in the future."

"As we continue to face up to the ongoing shocks of this crisis there is a notable opportunity for those of us committed to ending the illegal wildlife trade. Never before have the public health risks of the wildlife trade come into such sharp focus," William added. "Never before has there been greater public awareness about the dangers of zoonotic diseases like Ebola, SARS, MERS and COVID. And never before has the global incentive to act been so high."

Prince William
Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty

Conservation has been a key cause of Prince Charles that passed onto his two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry. Last year, the trio wore matching tuxes in a rare outing for the global premiere of Netflix’s Our Planet at the Natural History Museum in London.

In a speech ahead of the screening, Charles spoke about how proud he was that both his sons have made conservation efforts part of their missions.

“It has given me great pride to see how both my sons in different ways, have taken up the cause of restoring the balance of nature,” he said. “When they were much younger, I never thought they were paying attention to anything I said or did."

Prince William, Sir David Attenborough, Prince Charles and Prince Harry
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Although travel is limited during the coronavirus pandemic, Prince William made a video in support of a virtual marathon that usually takes place in Kenya last month. Supporters of his conservation charity Tusk Trust have been running, walking or riding distances from three miles to 26 miles on roads, parks and fields.

"I’m also about to do a run myself, as part of this virtual challenge," he said. "Like many of you, I’m very sad not to be able to do this run in Lewa’s beautiful surroundings — but also rather relieved to have been spared the altitude and the heat."

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William, who has been patron of Tusk since 2005, added, "This is not a race, there is no stopwatch. It is our way of showing Africa’s conservation community that we’re all in this together."