Summit in Thailand focuses on how to save endangered species

An illegal ivory haul seized in China Photo: Hong Kong Customs

The Duke of Cambridge has told an international conference that more needs to be done to stop the "shocking rise" in the levels of elephant and rhino poaching. The increasing popularity of rhino horn medicines and ivory furniture in Asia is believed to be fuelling the increase.

The conference opened today with a video message from Prince William.

He urged the 178 countries gathered here to make a difference at a time when elephant and rhino poaching are at what he called "shocking levels".

The Thai Prime Minister also made her government's first public promise to end the sale of ivory, Thailand has a legal domestic ivory trade but evidence shows that smuggled African ivory is making its way into the market here.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said "no one care about elephants more than Thailand". Credit: APTN

Campaign groups are welcoming that statement of intent from the Thai Prime Minister as progress.

But the main broad issues will be how to enforce the laws protecting endangered species and how to reduce demand in the booming Asian countries where large amounts of ivory and rhino horn are being illegally traded.

The head of the UN's environment programme said the illegal wildlife trade is now a billion dollar a year business.

CITES only meets every two or three years and many activists are saying this gathering is the last chance to save some of the world's most magnificent animals.