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Prince William condemns illegal wildlife trade on China visit

Prince William meets a rescued elephant called "Ran Ran" at the Xishuangbanna Elephant Sanctuary Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Duke of Cambridge fed Ran Ran, a 13-year-old rescued female Asian elephant

The Duke of Cambridge has condemned illegal wildlife trading in a speech on the final day of his tour of China.

Prince William called it a "vicious form of criminality" that "erodes the rule of law, fuels conflict and may even fund terrorism".

The prince made the speech after visiting an elephant sanctuary in the south western province of Yunnan.

He has worked to raise awareness of illegal trading among the Chinese, who are huge consumers of ivory.

The prince who is president of the organisation United for Wildlife said: "The greatest threat to elephants worldwide today is not local farmers protecting their livelihoods, it is ruthless and organised poaching and trafficking."

He talked about how the world seemed to be "hurtling towards" elephants becoming extinct in the wild which he said would be "an immeasurable loss to humanity".


Analysis

Image copyright AP

By BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt, in China

The irony will not have been lost on Prince William.

In Wild Elephant Valley, close to the Burmese border, the prince met Ran Ran and learned about the initiatives being undertaken here to protect Asian elephants.

This conservation work is taking place at the same time as elephants are being slaughtered in Africa to satisfy the growing Chinese market in ivory.

William can't singlehandedly stop that demand. In a speech he chose not to criticise but to encourage and focus on the work being done in China, work which conservation critics say isn't enough.

In the past, the British royals hunted such creatures. Now Prince William, who enjoys shooting, is working to eradicate the illegal wildlife trade.

In three days in China, William has drawn attention to the plight of elephants less fortunate than Ran Ran; he's focused on trade; and he's improved the relationship between the Windsors and the Chinese leadership.

Read more from Peter

The man protecting China's elephants


Leg wound

Prince William commended China's contribution to the protection of wildlife in Africa but said there was more work to be done, calling for increased international efforts to prevent criminals from smuggling wildlife via legitimate trade networks and reducing demand for the products.

On Thursday China imposed a one-year ban on ivory carving imports but environmental groups said a domestic trading ban was also needed.

The prince said he had discussed the issues with China's president Xi Jinping during talks in Beijing.

During the visit the prince helped to feed Ran Ran, a 13-year-old rescued female Asian elephant, who was discovered in a jungle river in 2005 with a leg wound caused by a trap.

The prince also met villagers in Xishuangbanna prefecture to hear how they were adapting to living in close proximity to wild elephants.

He arrived in China on Sunday after a four-day trip to Japan.

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