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06 November 2023

William apologises for Kate not travelling to Singapore - and explains why

06 November 2023

The Prince of Wales has said he is “delighted” to be in Singapore but the Princess of Wales is “sorry she can’t be here” as she is helping Prince George through his “first set of major exams”, during a speech at the United for Wildlife summit.

William delivered the speech at the summit, which is aimed at tackling the illegal trade in animal parts, at the Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay, on Monday afternoon.

He began by saying: “I’m delighted to be back in Singapore.

It has been 11 years since Catherine and I enjoyed a memorable visit here on behalf of my late grandmother in her Diamond Jubilee year

“It has been 11 years since Catherine and I enjoyed a memorable visit here on behalf of my late grandmother in her Diamond Jubilee year.

“And I should mention that Catherine is very sorry she can’t be here – she is helping George through his first set of major exams.”

William is in Singapore for the Earthshot Prize ceremony on Tuesday, aimed at recognising solutions to “repair” the planet, and will see five category winners presented with £1 million each to scale up their environmental ideas.

Founded by the prince and The Royal Foundation in 2014, United for Wildlife aims to make it impossible for traffickers to transport, finance or profit from illegal wildlife products.

During his speech, William said flora and fauna is the fourth most traded illegal commodity in the world, worth up to 20 billion dollars (£16.1 billion), which is a “global issue that demands immediate attention from us all”.

William told attendees the focus of his visit this week is “how we collectively overcome our planet’s greatest environmental challenges”.

The prince said: “This United for Wildlife summit will address how to protect our natural world from the international criminal gangs intent on plundering it.

“The world is losing its most precious natural resources at a frightening pace, all in the name of greed and exploitation.”

He then listed some statistics including: Wildlife populations have plummeted by almost 70% in the last 50 years; intense poaching has caused Kruger national park’s rhino population to drop by 60% since 2013; Namibia saw a 93% increase in rhino poaching from 2021 to 2022; and on average a rhino is poached every 20 hours.

William added that the criminals that trade rhino horn, tiger paws and pangolin scales are part of the same “highly organised gangs that traffic drugs, arms and people” – making the illegal wildlife trade “as much a human crisis as an environmental one”.

And the families of more than 1,500 rangers who have died in the line of duty “need no reminding of that”, nor do the families who have lost loved ones to the “underworld of modern-day slavery, conflict or acts of terrorism that have been financed by profits from the illegal wildlife trade”.

William said he is “incredibly proud” that United for Wildlife’s network has supported more than 600 investigations, nearly 300 seizures of illegal wildlife products, and the training of more than 110,000 people to tackle wildlife crime.

He added: “But our work is far from over, we must be more determined, more innovative, and more resourceful in the relentless pursuit of our mission to defeat this trade.”

As part of his speech at the summit, William announced that United for Wildlife has led the creation of a “world-first” international statement of principles, agreed by governments to “prevent, detect, and deter the financial activity that sustains the illegal wildlife trade”.

Signatories including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, the US, South Africa and Singapore, will commit to regular cooperation to combat money laundering from transnational criminal syndicates engaged in the illegal wildlife trade.

William said this level of ongoing support will “facilitate joint investigations and lead to more high value seizures and arrests”.

The prince ended his speech by saying: “Compared to other global problems, stopping the illegal wildlife trade should be relatively straightforward.

“We know where the animals are being poached. We know the routes through which they are illegally transported. We know the financial systems that criminal networks are exploiting to finance their trade, and we know the main markets that are fuelling the demand for it.

“Let’s use this summit to renew our collective determination to defeat the criminal gangs who inflict such unnecessary environmental and human loss.

“This is a battle that can and must be won.”

William arrived in south-east Asia to cheering crowds at at Jewel, a nature-themed complex at Changi Airport, on Sunday evening, then won a dragon boat race on the Marina Reservoir against a backdrop of Singapore’s most famous landmarks on Monday morning before meeting the President of Singapore, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, and the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, at the Istana.

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