This is the sharp end of the human impact of one of the world's most pressing conservation crises.The Duke of Cambridge
It is a great pleasure to be here once again at the Tusk Awards for Conservation in Africa… now in its third year. As many of you know, I feel incredibly passionate about this cause and I'm grateful to you all for joining me to support Tusk this evening.
In highlighting the urgency of the issue at hand – namely the protection some of the most beautiful and bio-diversity rich areas on this planet – it is important to take time to recognise the courageous work carried out on the frontline of conservation. Without people like Garth, Emmanuel and Edward – the true unsung heroes of conservation in Africa – we would be facing a very dire situation indeed.
They have all had to face real adversity and opposition in their times, perhaps none more so than Emmanuel who was so nearly killed in an ambush two years ago. Yet, all these men are incredibly humble, and have shown extraordinary vision and commitment to their respective work.
I am in awe of their achievements and we rightly pay tribute to them, because they do this for the sake of all of us, so that we all continue to have the opportunity and - perhaps more importantly - the right, to benefit from our world's natural heritage.
People often ask me why I am so passionate about this cause. There are many reasons, but one of the most obvious is because of the human impact.
As the world's population becomes more and more urbanised, an increasing number of people will grow up with little or no connection to the natural world. This will become a major challenge for conservationists. If people cannot see it, they will never learn to value it, or worse still will take little interest in looking after it.
The planet and our natural resources is not something we can afford to squander.
Africa continues to face unprecedented challenges in terms of poaching, driven by the burgeoning illegal trade in wildlife.
Sadly, all too often rangers are out-resourced and out-gunned. Most of them never imagined that they would need to lay down their lives to protect their country's heritage. But that is the harsh reality.
Emmanuel's own team in Virunga National Park have lost 140 rangers in the last decade. And only a few weeks ago, three rangers and one member of the Armed Forces were killed by poachers in one incident in central Africa, leaving behind 14 children between them.
As I have said in the past, it is these children's future that is blighted so tragically by the illegal wildlife trade and it is their birth right to their natural resources that is stolen.
This is the sharp end of the human impact of one of the world's most pressing conservation crises.
Having said that - there is much to be positive about, as our winners and finalists have highlighted this evening. I share an optimism with all of you that we can win this battle. And we will win this battle by working together and by having a collaborative approach across the whole spectrum.
There are few organisations that have as large an impact across the conservation sector as Tusk. And I would like to take this opportunity to thank Charlie and his wonderful team for their relentless contribution to the protection of Africa's natural habitat. Through their extensive programmes, and behind-the-scenes counsel, they continue to make a significant impact in Africa year on year.
I would also like to acknowledge the generosity of Tusks' corporate partners, including Investec Asset Management, whose support has enabled us to celebrate the Award winners again this evening. Thank you for your ongoing generosity.
And finally, I would once again like to congratulate the winners and finalists for their incredible achievements. The number and quality of the nominations received this year show that the Tusk Conservation Awards are so important in highlighting the extraordinary work undertaken by some remarkable people across Africa. We can only hope to shine a spotlight on a few each year, but in doing so, we rightly continue to uncover some of the unsung heroes of conservation in Africa.