By Rebecca English
Prince William will risk a diplomatic row with China today by denouncing the illegal wildlife trade.
The prince will tell a US conference on the sale of ivory, rhino horn and other endangered animal parts that ‘those who look the other way, or spend the illicit proceeds of these crimes, must be held to account’.
He will add: ‘Together they loot our planet, to feed mankind’s ignorant craving for pets, trinkets, cures and ornaments derived from the world’s vanishing and irreplaceable species.’
William will say the price of ivory in China has soared from £3 to £1,346 a kilogram in 25 years – with a resultant surge in poaching.
Half of the 40,000 elephants killed each year are believed to be exported to China, where the trade in ivory is legal.
It is so sought after because it is thought to purge toxins from the body.
The Duke of Cambridge’s outspoken speech – on a three-day visit to America – is likely to ruffle feathers – particularly in the Far East.
He is due to undertake a week-long official tour of China and Japan early next year – the highest profile solo visit of his fledgling royal career.
His father Prince Charles once raised hackles in China by describing Communist leaders as ‘appalling old waxworks’ and by publicly supporting Tibet’s exiled Dalai Lama.
His grandfather Prince Philip caused a storm on a visit to China in 1986 when he told British students: ‘If you stay here much longer you will all be slitty-eyed.’
According to sources close to William, his passion for wildlife issues is such that he feels it is his duty to speak out – like Charles does on matters close to his heart.
At the conference of the World Bank Group’s International Corruption Hunters Alliance, William will stress that ‘some endangered species are now literally worth more than their weight in gold’.
He will say: ‘It is wrong that children growing up in countries vulnerable to wildlife crime are losing their birthright in order to fuel the greed of international criminals, and that those children will face greater hardship and insecurity as this crime traps them in poverty.
‘Wildlife crime goes to the heart of our security. It recognises neither national borders nor national interests. It distorts economic development, undermines the rule of law and exacerbates sources of conflict.’
Rhino horn is popular in the Far East and practitioners of Chinese medicine believe it can save lives threatened by fever or infection.
The trade was banned by the Chinese government in 1993 but with the country’s growing capitalist economy, entrepreneurs and private businesses have created a shadowy illegal trade.
Earlier this year William, 32, attracted public criticism when he went on a boar hunting trip on the eve of a major conservation conference he and his father were attending.
He also attracted scorn for his subsequent comments to veteran primatologist Dame Jane Goodall that he wanted to see the priceless ivory antiques in the Royal Collection, held in trust on behalf of the nation, destroyed.
William’s speech – which follows a meeting with Barack Obama – will strike the most serious note of his visit to the US.
He and his five months pregnant wife, Kate, have left their 16-month-old son, Prince George, at home as they launch a charitable charm offensive on New York.
They are staying at the Carlyle Hotel, where rooms can cost £9,000 a night. Photos.