The ivory trade is a HUGE problem. And it has been a huge problem for centuries, as thousands of elephants were slaughtered merely for their tusks, and many elephant populations are still under threat today because of poachers looking to profit from their tusks. Well, Prince William allegedly wants to do something about that. Maybe. As I said, allegedly. I want to be clear: these quotes attributed to William are second-hand, although it’s Jane Goodall who claims that William said this to her, so take that as you will:
The Duke of Cambridge wants to strip all the ivory from Buckingham Palace and destroy it, The Independent on Sunday can reveal, in a move conservationists hailed as “extremely significant” in the fight against elephant poaching.
Some 1,200 items containing ivory are listed in the royal collection, including a throne from India that incorporates elephant-ivory plaques. The move would seek to encourage other heads of states to give up their ivory stocks and collections.
The revelation comes days after the Duke attended the world’s largest ever conference on the illegal wildlife trade, which called for an end to the £12bn trade in animals and their parts, including ivory. At least 45 tons of ivory were seized in 2013, believed to be the biggest annual haul in a quarter of a century.
“It’s difficult to imagine a stronger symbol of the horrors of ivory than Buckingham Palace publicly destroying its own,” said Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith. “Good for Prince William for pushing this.”
It is not the first time Prince William has spoken up for elephants; last week he launched a new coalition, United for Wildlife, made up of seven organisations, which is determined to end the illegal wildlife trade. He said then: “The forces that are currently destroying some of the world’s most endangered species are sophisticated and powerful, but this week we are seeing the creation of an equally powerful alliance, coming together to help fight them.”
The next day, 46 governments attended the London Conference. They pledged, among other things, to renounce the use of any products from species threatened by extinction, to support the commercial prohibition on the international trade in elephant ivory until the survival of elephants is no longer threatened by poaching, and to encourage countries to destroy their illegal stockpiles of ivory. They also urged the private sector to adopt a “zero-tolerance” policy on giving or receiving products made from species threatened with extinction.
Veteran primatologist Jane Goodall, who turns 80 this year, told The IoS that she had spoken to Prince William and he had told her he would “like to see all the ivory owned by Buckingham Palace destroyed”. The Royal Family’s extensive collection includes fans, miniatures and furniture – such as the ivory throne from India, dated 1851, which belonged to Queen Victoria. A Palace spokesperson said they had received a small number of items since 1947 but said they were “primarily official gifts, which would have been agreed in full knowledge of relevant legislation.”
The Prince of Wales has reportedly asked for ivory items at Clarence House and Highgrove to be put out of sight over the last few years. But experts said destruction would send a “powerful” message to the world. “It would be a demonstration of them putting their money where their mouth is. It would be extremely significant, and visual, and might help Britons hand in their ivory, illegal or legal,” said Dr Paula Kahumbu, executive director of Kenyan-based charity Wildlife Direct.
“Ninety nine per cent of ivory that is in people’s hands comes from elephants being gunned down. Handing it in shows: ‘I’m going to wash my hands of this despicable business.’ It shows the royals are not above taking a practical, personal action. It would probably result in similar support from other countries.”
…A spokesman for the Duke of Cambridge refused to either confirm or deny private comments Prince William is said to have made.
There are more quotes from animal-rights and specifically anti-ivory-trade people in that Independent article. The gist is that many people think it would be a powerful symbol if the royal family destroyed their ivory, but some people don’t really see the point in destroying art pieces that are centuries old in some cases. I can sort of relate – I inherited my father’s Indian art collection, and there are a few pieces that have ivory inlays. I support a full-on ivory trade ban and I think elephant poachers should be… well, I wouldn’t be sorry if they disappeared from the face of the earth, let’s put it that way. But I also feel like there should be a grandfather clause for ivory – it seems like destroying historical pieces of ivory would merely be a symbolic gesture. I don’t know. I can see how even historical pieces of ivory would be a reminder of the slaughter of elephants, but at the end of the day… I’m not going to destroy the ivory-inlaid art that I inherited. Does this mean William is going to come to my house and destroy my ivory?
Photos courtesy of WENN.