It will help many, many people around the world appreciate our planet's extraordinary planet’s natural heritage – and how steadfastly it must be safe-guarded.The Duke of Cambridge
Wow - that was amazing. I'm emotionally exhausted. There's more drama in that than Eastenders. What that told me was - who needs men?
I know that you will all wish to join me in congratulating the filmmakers for producing such an incredible film - in particular, producers Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey, and cameraman Simon King, whose footage was just breath-taking.
Films like African Cats remind us of the dramatic beauty, and the harshness, of the natural world – and there is nowhere more awe-inspiring or beautiful than the vast plains of Kenya’s Maasai Mara.
Africa’s natural heritage is the world’s natural heritage. We have to preserve places like this…not just for us, but for future generations.
African Cats shows graphically the battle for survival facing every lion and cheetah born in the wild. The natural challenges are formidable, without man’s interference. Loss of natural habitat, due to encroachment by human beings, is the principal reason that there are today around just 25,000 lions remaining in the African bush – 50% less than 20 years ago. There could be as few as 12,000 cheetahs.
The population distribution of these marvellous creatures is patchy as well. Kenya, with around 2,000 lions, has as many as all of West and Central Africa put together. This uneven geographic spread further lowers the species’ chances of achieving stable populations and, therefore, longer term survival.
I say this not to be despondent, but to sound a rallying call. We must act now, coherently and together, if the situation is to be reversed and our legacy - our global, natural legacy – preserved. Tomorrow will be simply too late.
The decline of big cats is, of course, of huge concern. But they’re not the only ones. Tusk and other conservation groups are now confronting the truly horrific situation affecting Africa’s elephant and rhinoceros. Both are being mercilessly and illegally poached at a rate not seen for decades. Unless this stops, these two majestic animals will be, in a few short years, but a memory in the wilds of Africa. Ladies and gentlemen, this cannot happen. We mustn’t let it.
But what can we do? As Patron of Tusk, I’ve seen for myself some of the outstanding results our work achieves. In Botswana, for instance, my brother and I visited an innovative project developing a bio-boundary technique to reduce conflict between farmers and natural marauders and predators.
Brilliant ideas such as this will help. But I have always believed in Tusk’s strategic vision that long-term success lies with educating people. Whether Africans, naturally worried about protecting their livestock from predators, or those from Asian markets who drive the demand for ivory and rhino horn – whoever they may be, they need to understand the consequences of the path we are currently taking.
They must be equipped with knowledge - and confidence to use that knowledge - to enable them to follow another path; one that harmonises the conservation of Africa’s wildlife and its habitats with the needs of human beings.
This balanced and durable sustainability can only be achieved if the well-being of communities is seen as benefiting from, and being mutually reliant upon, a flourishing, stable wildlife population.
So, it’s about knowledge. For that reason, amongst many others, I want to thank Disney and Disneynature who, with ICAP, made Tusk the beneficiary of this wonderful premiere.
African Cats is a great documentary. It is also a superb educational project in its own right. It will help many, many people around the world appreciate our planet's extraordinary planet’s natural heritage – and how steadfastly it must be safe-guarded.
It remains for me just to introduce your Question & Answer session to the panel. Ladies and gentlemen, please ask away - and I would just ask one thing of you: spread the word about the work of Tusk and other organisations engaged in this battle to preserve Africa’s unique natural heritage.