National Geographic made much of Prince Williams visit to Washington this week, during which he took careful aim at wildlife traffickers. Both the Prince and his father, Prince Charles, are vocal advocates for endangered wildlife such as elephants and rhinos. On the face of it, having the Prince on your side must be seen as a good thing, but the issue is more complex than it appears.
Prince William, in his speech to the World Bank, shone a spotlight on illegal trafficking and on the black market in animal products. The Prince announced the formation of a royal task force to work with the transportation industry—from airlines to shipping companies—to examine its role in wildlife trafficking. Prince William told the meeting of the World Bank’s International Corruption Hunters Alliance, “Criminals are able to exploit weak and corrupt standards, so we must raise those standards, collectively.”
The Prince went on to say, “It’s easy to blame others for the problem—demand in Southeast Asia, not enough protection on the ground, and so on. But, if I may say, we could start with looking closer to home. Our own nations still have thriving black markets in these products, and we have to raise the game at home as well as abroad.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that when World Bank President Jim Kim praised the Prince’s dedication to wildlife and conservation, calling him a “corruption hunter,” his royal guest smiled and chuckled.
Prince William has been active for years in efforts to stop wildlife trafficking, and the Prince’s efforts are no doubt very welcome at a time when many governments and conservation groups are stepping up efforts to combat wildlife trafficking, which is fuelled largely by growing wealth and demand for animal parts in Asia, particularly China.
The Prince is quite right to say that conservation efforts need to begin closer to home. In Prince Williams case, the scrutiny needs to begin much closer to home than he would like. He should start by looking at his own practices.
It is well known that Prince William enjoys hunting and shooting, and he will no doubt join the boxing day grouse shoot on his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth’s estates. Today, the Independent newspaper points out that grouse shooting has taken the species to dangerously low levels.
Reporter Simon Barnes said, “Conservation doesn’t start with telling foreigners what to do: it starts with doing the right thing yourself. If you’re in a public position, you should being doing the right thing loudly and clearly. That consistency has eluded Prince William.”
Prince Charles’s advocacy for wildlife has been hampered by his lifelong taste for hunting and shooting.
And so it continues with Prince William. If he wants to be taken seriously as an advocate for conservation – rather than a good-hearted meddler – he must speak out against the grouse-shooting industry in Britain. As it is, he’s been a participant.”
The Prince, who released Christmas Photographs of Prince George last night, was also criticized by Channel 4 television earlier this year when it reported that the Prince went hunting wild boar in Spain.
While the shooting of grouse and the hunting of wild boar are legal activities, Prince William would do well to heed these criticisms if he wants to be taken seriously as a conservationist. Remember Sir, when one is in a glass house, one should not throw stones!