Prince William is speaking out with an important warning when it comes to protecting wildlife.
The prince, who has made conservation of elephants and rhinos and other species threatened by the illegal trade in wildlife parts a central part of his public work, says that elephants are on course “for extinction at the hands of poachers, criminal” gangs and traffickers. And he says that when he was born almost 37 years ago, there were a million elephants in Africa.
By the time his daughter Princess Charlotte was born in 2015, the number of elephants roaming the savannas of Africa had fallen to 350,000, the Great Elephant Census found, he says. “At the current pace of illegal poaching, when Charlotte turns 25 the Africa elephant could be gone from the wild.”
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William shares these sentiments in a foreword to The Last Elephants, a new book celebrating the magnificence, the lives, habitat and threats faced by elephants, “I’m not prepared to be part of a generation that lets these iconic species disappear and have to explain to our children why we lost this battle when we had the tools to win it,” he writes in the new book, which is due out next month.
The Last Elephants consists of new writing from scientists, conservationists and rangers, with images by leading photographers that present “windows into the world of these extraordinary creatures,” William says.
One of those photographers is Kate Brooks, who made the film, The Last Animals, which has its north American television premiere on the National Geographic Channel on Earth Day, April 22. William also appears in that ground-breaking film, which highlights the trade in wildlife and the deadly battle that rangers face in trying to halt the gangs pillaging the beasts.
And he adds in the foreword that the crisis is not just about animals – but also people.
“It is families in the world’s most vulnerable regions who suffer when two rangers a week are killed on the frontline of this fight,” William writes. “It is fragile democratic systems in many nations that are at risk from the source of war violence and corruption that the illegal wildlife trade funds and fuels.
Filmmaker and photographer Brooks told PEOPLE last year: “There’s no question that the Duke of Cambridge has played a critical role in raising awareness about the seriousness of this issue and also unified collective efforts through his passion and concern.”
William is president of United for Wildlife, which brings together a coalition of campaigning groups, and he has visited China and Vietnam to highlight the trade in areas where there is the most consumption. And he has spoken with Chinese President Xi Jinping and former President Barack Obama about the issue.