Britian’s Prince William warned yesterday that vulnerable species are being killed at a horrifying rate, as he addressed a wildlife conference in Vietnam – a country criticised for not curbing the illicit animal product trade.
With its growing class of wealthy elites, Vietnam has become a main market for rhino horn and ivory and a key route for the smuggling of illegal wildlife products from Africa to other Asian countries, notably China.
William, a conservation champion, urged governments around the world to act to save vulnerable species before it was too late.
“We know we aren’t moving fast enough to keep up with the crisis,” he said at the Hanoi Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade.
“Rhinos, elephants, pangolins, lions, they are still being killed in horrifying numbers.
“While we’ve made progress, the truth is we are still falling behind.
A betting man would still bet on extinction.” The prince said poachers and trafficking syndicates were becoming more sophisticated and appetites for wildlife products such as ivory and rhino horn needed to be stamped out.
The global illegal wildlife industry, worth an estimated $20-billion (R286-billion), is driven chiefly by demand in Vietnam and China for decorations or traditional medicines with little or no proven benefit.
Stricter law enforcement in China in recent years has driven many buyers to Vietnam, which conservation groups have said is failing to punish criminals and enforce the law.
Pressure on Vietnam has seen much of the trade move to the web, led by China’s popular social media platform WeChat.
Vietnam’s vice-president earlier echoed Prince William’s urgent appeal.