By Rosaleen Duffy, Dan Brockington
On the face of it the British royal family’s commitment to wildlife conservation is unmistakable.
Perhaps the most well-known work is that of Prince Charles, who in May co-hosted a meeting on illegal wildlife trade, just one of many of his endeavours that include high level activities on rainforests and considerable work in Britain.
Both his father Prince Philip, who co-founded the WWF, and his son Prince William (now the Duke of Cambridge), are actively involved in global conservation. Indeed Prince William recently retired from his role as a RAF helicopter pilot to focus on his charity work, launching the United for Wildlife conservation alliance.
Less well known is that Princess Michael of Kent is a patron of the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust, Mark Shand (the brother of Camilla Parker-Bowles, Prince Charles' wife) set up the charity Elephant Family, and Prince Andrew has visited game reservation areas in Tanzania.
But their work is far more than just supporting and establishing charitable activities. What the royal family has done historically and continues to do for conservation in Britain is to drive a particular vision of what conservation should be, an influence that continues to this day.
We need to be careful. Any conservation vision is also inherently a social vision. Any battle for wildlife is a battle fought between people, which means people as well as animals will be among the casualties. The royal family is no stranger to these dilemmas and has found itself embroiled in controversy in the past. For example, when a WWF helicopter donated by Prince Philip was used in a shoot-to-kill anti-poaching operation in Sapi safari area in Zimbabwe in the 1980s. The helicopter was quickly withdrawn, but left a PR disaster for the WWF and its royal benefactors. More....