Children born this year might only see the world’s mega fauna in picture books, marvelling at the curiously shaped elephant and rhinoceros and imperial tiger as 20th-century anachronisms.
The killing has gathered pace in the last five years, but it is not too late to save the last of these beasts in the wild. Much rides on what happens this week in London. David Cameron and the Duke of Cambridge will host representatives of 60 states, including China, in the largest-ever conference of its kind to try to stop the £11.5bn-a-year industrial slaughter of global wildlife. The profits are so colossal that militias and terror groups have taken a stake – destabilising the countries involved and visiting fresh horrors upon their people.
“We have to be the generation that stopped the illegal wildlife trade and secured the future of these magnificent animals,” William said yesterday in a passionate video appeal with his father. The Princes spoke in Mandarin, Arabic, Spanish, Swahili and Vietnamese.
The Duke described the poaching as “one of the great conservation crises of the 21st century” when he spoke to i’s elephant campaign and the President of Gabon writes in i today: “We have to act now or one of the most majestic animals to grace this planet will disappear.”
I’m excited by this summit’s potential to be more than a talking shop. Governments have never been more receptive to working together to stop wildlife trafficking. If readers wish to contribute to the effort, you can help to focus minds: we have launched a petition with our sister titles The Independent, The Independent on Sunday and the London Evening Standard. Full details at ind.pn/elephantappeal. Point 2 is about influencing public opinion in Asia. We’re grateful for the support our petition has already received from major conservation charities, celebrities and the public.
One thing to look out for this week is China’s response.