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Environment

Prince William Is Leading 30 World Banks to Crack Down on the Illegal Wildlife Trade


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The Duke of Cambridge has launched a new task force to combat wildlife trafficking — working with dozens of international banks and financial institutions, the UK’s Department of International Development, and the Foreign Office. 

The task force is being led by United for Wildlife, a conservation programme led by Prince William and run by the Royal Foundation, and chaired by former foreign secretary William Hague. 

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“I feel it is my duty and our collective responsibility to leave our planet in a stronger position for our children,” he told political leaders, businesses, and conservation groups in London.

“It’s heartbreaking to think that by the time my children, George, Charlotte, and Louis are in their 20s, elephants, rhinos, and tigers might well be extinct in the wild,” he continued. “I for one am not willing to look my children in the eye and say we were the generation that let this happen on our watch.” 

At the launch of the task force, more than 30 international banks and financial institutions — including Barclays, HSBC, JP Morgan, CitiGroup, and Bank of America — signed the Mansion House Declaration, which includes six pledges to combat wildlife trafficking. 

The pledges include efforts to increase awareness about how the finance industry can tackle the illegal wildlife trade (IWT), and providing training to help staff spot suspicious activity. 

All those who signed pledged that they “will not knowingly facilitate or tolerate financial flows that are derived from the illegal wildlife trade and associated corruption.”

The task force also involves agencies and regulatory bodies including TRAFFIC and RUSI, according to the government. 

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The global trade in illegal wildlife products is estimated to be worth about £18 billion a year, putting it among the five most lucrative global crimes, according to United for Wildlife.

So it’s vital that financial institutions are on board with efforts to crackdown on IWT, because “traffickers brazenly exploit global financial systems to move the proceeds of their crimes, remaining under the radar of investigation and law enforcement,” according to Hague. 

“Financial institutions can, therefore, play a crucial role in disrupting such criminal activities and ending the illegal wildlife trade,” he added. 

Essentially, if you can stop poachers and traffickers moving their money, then it stops the trade. 

The launch of the task force came on the eve of the international conference on the illegal wildlife trade — the largest conference ever held on this issue — hosted in London by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

As part of the crackdown on wildlife trafficking, the UK’s Department for International Development and the Foreign Office are joining forces to tackle criminal gangs. 

The UK aid project will launch investigations, seize assets, and train law enforcement in East and Southern African countries, according to the government statement, and will be the largest known project of its kind to crack down on financial crimes associated with the illegal wildlife trade in the world. 

“We can only stop the illegal wildlife trade by targeting the international gangs and criminal networks which essentially drive it,” said International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt. 

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“UK aid is directly supporting efforts to recover illegal assets, disrupt organised crime networks, and stop the flow of dirty money so that we can protect endangered and trafficked species and bring those responsible to justice,” she said. 

“By protecting these species, UK aid enables some of the world’s poorest people to benefit from sustainable jobs which depend on the natural world and endangered, wild animals,” Mordaunt added. 

The UK also drew the conference to a close on Friday with a “landmark announcement” of UK aid funding — with Mordaunt committing £35 million in aid funding to protect critical forest habitats and species threatened by extinction. 

It’s an initiative that’s not just important for the chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and tigers that it will protect — but for people, too. 

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Around the world, 1.2 billion people rely on forests and natural habitats for their livelihoods, according to the Department for International Development (DfID). 

“For the thousands of such communities which benefit from industries like tourism, protecting the natural environment is a crucial development issue,” said Mordaunt. 

“UK aid-backed projects happening right now across the world, such as those we can announce today, are leading the global fight to protect the natural environment that we all love so much,” she said. “We owe it to future generations to work together to end wildlife crime, to protect essential forest habitats and to bring the world’s poorest communities out of poverty.”