SINGAPORE (AP) — Britain’s Prince William said Monday that seven countries — Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore, Britain and the United States — have committed at a wildlife summit to deepen their intelligence-sharing and other cooperation to combat money laundering by international gangs engaged in the illegal wildlife trade.
Speaking at the United for Wildlife Summit in Singapore, the Prince of Wales said the wildlife population around the world has plummeted by almost 70% over the past 50 years.
“From here in Southeast Asia to North America, the Amazon to Africa, traffickers in more than 150 countries are developing more sophisticated networks to smuggle wildlife products across air, land and sea,” he said. “They feed a global black market that has made flora and fauna the fourth most-traded illegal commodity in the world, worth up to $20 billion.”
Joint investigations will lead to more high-value seizures and arrests, he said. The charity hopes to include more governments in the effort.
“We know where the animals are being poached; we know the routes through which they are illegally transported; we know the financial systems that criminal networks are exploiting to finance their trade; and we know the main markets that are fueling the demand for it,” he said. “This is a battle that can and must be won.”
He said criminal gangs that traffic rhino horn, tiger paws and pangolin scales are part of the same highly organized gangs that traffic drugs, arms and people. Such criminal convergence has made the illegal wildlife trade a human crisis as more than 1,500 rangers, including over 600 in Asia, have died in the line of duty, he said.
United for Wildlife was created by William’s Royal Foundation charity.
William told the conference that his wife, Kate, couldn’t join him on his four-day visit as she has to help their eldest son, George, “through his first set of major exams.” The royal couple last visited Singapore in 2012.
William, 41, is in Singapore for the annual The Earthshot Prize awards ceremony, the first to be held in Asia. William and his charity launched the global competition in 2020 to promote innovative solutions and technologies to combat global warming and protect the planet.
Winners will be named Tuesday in five categories: nature protection, clean air, ocean revival, waste elimination and climate change. Each winner will receive 1 million pounds ($1.2 million) to help scale up their projects. The 15 finalists represent six continents and were selected from 1,300 nominees.
Actors Hannah Waddingham and Sterling K. Brown will co-host the event, which will be attended by wildlife conservationist Robert Irwin and celebrities including Oscar winner Cate Blanchett and actors Lana Condor and Nomzamo Mbatha.
Earlier Monday, William met Singapore President Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to thank them for hosting the ceremony.
An avid sportsman, William also took time for dragon boating, a popular local sport. He paddled with athletes from the British Dragons club to the steady beat of a drummer standing in the bow.
“I was lucky enough to be sitting next to him, and he is just a really nice guy,” said Laura Greenwood, a member of the British Dragons. “He has dragon boated before, so he felt kind of confident in what he was doing.”