Prince William's first speech as heir honours his 'much-missed grandmother' with commitments on environment

The Prince of Wales has used his first speech as heir to reaffirm his commitment to environmental causes and the "war" against the illegal wildlife trade, saying that he will honour the Queen through that work.

Speaking at the United for Wildlife Global Summit he reflected on the death of the Queen, and the influence his grandparents and father have had on his own charitable endeavours.

The prince said: "Our natural world is one of our greatest assets. It is a lesson I learnt from a young age, from my father and grandfather, both committed naturalists in their own right, and also from my much-missed grandmother, who cared so much for the natural world.

"In times of loss, it is a comfort to honour those we miss through the work we do.

"I take great comfort then from the progress we are making to end the illegal wildlife trade."

Reinforcing his commitment to raising awareness about the devastating impact of worldwide crime, he said: "There are still too many criminals who believe they can act with impunity, too many lives being destroyed and too many species on the brink of extinction due to this heinous crime.

"[United for Wildlife] set out to ensure that those involved in wildlife crime face an international response as powerful and coordinated as any other serious and organised crime.

"To bring their sinister operations out of the shadows and to ensure that communities are equipped, empowered and supported to protect themselves and their natural world."

'There's a war going on people don't see'

Before delivering his speech, he spoke to ranger Altin Gysman from the Southern Africa Wildlife College.

His colleague Anton Mzimba, a head ranger at the Timbavati Nature Reserve in South Africa, who the prince had previously met, was shot dead in front of his family this summer.

Offering his ongoing support, Prince William said: "There is a war going on. Everyone doesn't really see it".

The organisation Thin Green Line said that currently around the world on average three rangers die every week.

United for Wildlife was launched by the prince in 2014.

In the past six years, the networks established between the public and private sectors have contributed to over 450 law enforcement cases, over 250 arrests, almost 200 seizures of wildlife products and have trained over 100,000 people.

The event at the London Science Museum saw 300 leading figures from the business world, conservation organisations and law enforcement gather in a show of global strength against illegal wildlife crime.

Illegal animal trade worth £17.5bn a year

The trade is estimated to be worth up to $20bn (£17.54bn) annually, money that is used to fund serious and organised crime, and terrorism.

In recent weeks Moazu Kromah was sentenced to over five years in prison for conspiring to traffic more than $7m (£6.14m) worth of rhino horn and elephant ivory, involving the illegal poaching of around 135 animals.

Critical to the success of this case was the collaboration of a broad range of organisations across multiple continents including UfW members.

Lord William Hague, chair of the Royal Foundation, the charitable foundation set up by Prince and Princess of Wales said: "The depletion of our most precious wildlife continues.

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"That makes the illegal wildlife trade an intolerable offence. But its association with violent crime, corruption, people trafficking and even terrorist financing makes it of the utmost seriousness.

"Our response, therefore, needs to be similarly organised, similarly global in scope, and just as serious as the crime we are fighting.

"It is the breadth and diversity of the collaboration that makes the United for Wildlife network unique in its work to defeat illegal wildlife crime."

This week it was confirmed that King Charles will not attend COP27 in November, the UN climate conference, after it was decided it was not appropriate for him to attend, despite his ongoing commitment to the environment.

His son's first speech can be interpreted as displaying his desire to keep speaking out on the climate crisis, despite the expectations and responsibilities that come with being first in line to the throne.