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British Prince urges global unity to combat poaching

Prince William delivers his plea at conference in Vietnam, one of Asia’s primary wildlife trafficking hubs

British Prince urges global unity to combat poaching File photo

By Bennett Murray

HANOI, Vietnam

British monarch Prince William called for the eradication of the illegal wildlife trade’s “killing fields” at a conference in Hanoi on Thursday.

Speaking to an audience of around 100 international delegates at the Hanoi Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade, the prince -- who is second in line for the British throne -- warned the audience that elephants, rhinoceros and pangolins are in imminent risk of extinction from poaching.

"The betting man would still bet on extinction,” said William, who is also president of the United for Wildlife environmental NGO.

William added that the population of African elephants has decreased 30 percent in the past seven years.

While Africa is a primary source for poached wildlife, Vietnam is global hub for wildlife body parts destined for the Asian market.

At least 40 tons of ivory has been seized by Vietnamese authorities since 2011, with 3.5 tons confiscated in October alone.

While much of it is destined for the Chinese market, many jewelry stores in Hanoi openly sell ivory accessories and trinkets.

Rhino horns, whose shavings are consumed in tonics, are also popular among some circles of wealthy Vietnamese as both a pseudo-medicine and status symbol.

Much of the blame, said William, rested on consumers in Asia.

"In this part of the world, we have to acknowledge the truth that consumers are demanding more, not less, ivory and rhino horn," he said.

Following the speech, 10 Vietnamese environmental groups signed a joint statement calling for crackdowns.

“We urge all relevant Ministries, authorities, and People’s Committees in every province to take heed of the seriousness of illegal wildlife trade, and to recognize Vietnam’s exposure to this issue as a source, transit and destination country for illegal wildlife trade,” read the joint statement.

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