David Cameron today gives his personal backing to The Independent’s campaign to safeguard the future of Africa’s elephants.
Speaking on his trade mission to China – where demand for ivory has fuelled poaching – Mr Cameron said he had raised his concerns with the Chinese Premier during official talks.
And he revealed that he had urged the Chinese to send an official delegation to a summit in London early next year to discuss the problem.
He added that tackling poaching was an issue he personally felt deeply about – and one that could profoundly affect future generations.
“It is an issue of real concern to people right across our country,” he told The Independent.
“We don’t want to be the generation that sees species that are so iconic and important in our world disappear. That would be a terrible dereliction of our duty.
“So I feel a personal connection and enthusiasm with this project and I am delighted Britain is giving it such a lead.”
Mr Cameron added that he was hopeful of Chinese involvement in the conference – also to be attended by Prince William. The Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, suggested their attendance was as good as guaranteed.
“It is obviously something I have invited Chinese leaders to join and we look forward to hosting a successful conference,” said Mr Cameron.
Mr Paterson, who is leading government efforts to tackle the ivory trade, added that both supply and demand needed to be addressed.
He said: “We are losing a rhino every 11 hours and we are losing an elephant every 15 minutes – because ivory is worth $2,000 a kilo.
“There is absolutely no doubt about it – the value is enormous. For ivory alone the value of crime is around £10bn. So there is huge interest in solving this problem.
“And it would be a huge indictment if we don’t. We are organising a summit in February and we’ve got people coming from right across the world. And thanks to our meetings this week, the Chinese have also agreed to attend.
“We need to improve enforcement and we’ve got to do something about demand, and that’s where the Chinese government can help. We need to teach people that ivory is not just old tooth – that it comes from killing animals.”