Spring 2012, on a rainy April evening in London, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made their first public appearance since the Duke’s return from the Falklands, attending a charity screening for Tusk Trust of the Disney Nature film, African Cats. The evening was light, jolly. The Duke’s message was anything but.
Speaking to a packed theatre, which included many of the world’s leading press organisations, England’s future monarch was direct and emphatic.
“Tusk and other conservation groups are now confronting the truly horrific situation affecting Africa’s elephant and rhinoceros. Both are being mercilessly and illegally poached at a rate not seen for decades. Unless this stops, these two majestic animals will be, in a few short years, but a memory in the wilds of Africa.”
A dramatic though accurate statement. With rhino in South Africa alone being poached at a rate of one every 18 hours, and elephants at some 35,000 per year from an overall population estimated around 350,000, the killing has reached a crisis point.
According to Ian Craig, Director of Special Projects at Kenya’s Northern Rangelands Trust, the current level of poaching is but the start of a massive tsunami sweeping the continent, decimating wildlife and destroying national and local economies, including the tourism industry, which in countries like Kenya accounts for at least 10% of GDP.
“If our grandchildren are to experience the wild Africa and free-roaming animals of today, we have to kill the demand for ivory and rhino horn. The time is now. Right now. Not tomorrow.”
The demand Craig refers to is almost wholly attributed to an insatiable appetite in the East. For rhino horn, it is Vietnam. While in the case of ivory, it is an emerging middle class in China. With fast-tracked industrialisation and economic growth, this consumer group is likely to be 250 million strong within the next 15 years, bringing with it ever-increased buying power for aspirational goods.