William calls for total UK ban on ivory trade to halt elephants extinction
The Duke of Cambridge has urged the Government to go ahead with a total ban on the domestic ivory trade to stop fuelling the extinction of elephants.
William, speaking at an international conference on the illegal wildlife trade, said endangered animals are still being slaughtered in "horrifying numbers" and called for an acceleration in efforts to tackle the crisis.
He told the summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, that a "betting man would still bet on extinction" of elephants after a census revealed a 30% decline in the African variety over seven years.
But he called for nations to impose a ban on the "abhorrent" trade of ivory within their borders as one of the measures to ward off the decline.
The Duke said: "China has already signalled a total ban, the USA has instituted one, and other nations, including the United Kingdom, are considering it.
"We know now what previous generations did not - ivory treated as a commodity is the fuel of extinction.
"Ivory is not something to be desired and when removed from an elephant it is not beautiful. So, the question is: why are we still trading it? We need governments to send a clear signal that trading in ivory is abhorrent."
While the international trade has been banned since 1989, it is still possible to sell antique ivory in the UK as long as it was carved before 1947.
William said there is "much to be proud of" in the efforts to halt the extinction of animals such as rhinos, elephants, pangolins and lions.
"But the organised crime syndicates we are up against are much more agile than we are. We are getting cleverer, but we need to admit that they are getting much cleverer as well," he added.
"Their brutality continues to escalate, with many more rangers killed since we gathered in London (at a previous summit) two years ago."
Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom announced a series of measures to tackle the illegal wildlife trade at the conference, doubling the UK's investment in dealing with the problem to £13 million.
A new UK-China arrangement will train African border forces to spot and tackle smugglers pedalling illegal animal products and the UK will also work with Vietnamese authorities to improve border security in the South East Asian country to stop trafficking.
There will also be British military training for an elite new force of anti-poaching trackers in key countries such as Malawi and support for Interpol and other international organisations to tackle the problem.
Ms Leadsom said: "The UK is determined to do all we can to show global leadership in fighting the illegal wildlife trade and protecting the world's precious wildlife.
"Today we are committing to double our investment with an extra £13 million to tackle all aspects of the illegal wildlife trade. This builds on our plans to ban the sale of modern-day ivory, an important first step as we press for a complete ban.
"This global issue will only be solved through international co-operation and the decisive action agreed in Hanoi will help to protect our wild animals for future generations."
She also confirmed that world leaders would be invited back to London in 2018, to ensure the global commitments agreed to stop the illegal wildlife trade were delivered.
The Duke is on a two-day official visit to Vietnam to highlight the damaging effects the illegal trade in wildlife has on some of the world's best-loved animals.
In recent years William has campaigned with ex-footballer David Beckham and former Chinese basketball star Yao Ming to end the trade in ivory and other products.
On Wednesday, the Duke visited a Vietnamese primary school to learn how children are being encouraged to protect endangered rhinos - with the help of a storybook about a young rhino.