The Duke of Cambridge has warned the clock is ticking towards a tipping point when our impact on the environment will be irreversible.
Speaking at the Tusk Conservation Awards at Banqueting House in London, William said “nature matters to us all” and we have an obligation to reduce the extent to which we “plunder” the planet’s resources.
He highlighted the recent Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, warning that it was the “loudest warning bell yet” from the scientific community that we must act now.
The duke added: “The clock is ticking towards a tipping point when the impact of what we are doing will become dangerously irreversible.
“We have a responsibility and obligation to the next generation to drastically reduce the extent to which we plunder the world’s natural resources.”
He also said that reducing illegal poaching required “global political leadership”.
William added: “It was great to see so many countries come together to reaffirm their commitments at the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference here in London last month.
“But for the tide to really turn on the trade, we require consistent, global political leadership and action.
“We must fiercely protect the fragile gains we have made.”
The duke was attending the awards in Whitehall with his wife the Duchess of Cambridge.
Kate was wearing a teal floor-length Jenny Packham dress with a matching clutch bag.
The duke presented the winners of the Tusk award for conservation, the Tusk wildlife ranger award and the Prince William award for conservation in Africa with their awards.
He praised the winners and nominees for their hard work and dedication.
William added: “As ever, I am inspired and humbled by the sheer dedication and commitment that our 2018 nominees have demonstrated.
“It never ceases to amaze me how they achieve so much against the odds and with so few resources.”
The charity was set up in 1990 by its current chief executive Charles Mayhew MBE to protect African wildlife against threats including poaching, habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict.
The duke became a patron of Tusk in 2005 and has supported the charity’s work privately and publicly, including visiting its projects in Namibia and Tanzania on his recent tour of Africa.
Mr Mayhew praised William for his “unwavering commitment” to conservation and said his role was “invaluable”.
Dr Pete Morkel, who was awarded the Prince William award for conservation, joined the other finalists to meet the duke and duchess before the awards ceremony.
Dr Morkel, from Zimbabwe, is a world-leading wildlife veterinarian who practices across the African continent.
He said he had been “incredibly impressed” with William’s “passion for conservation”.
Dr Morkel added: “We first met in Tanzania many years ago and from that moment I have always been incredibly impressed with his attitude and passion for conservation.
“Many people in Africa have the utmost respect for both William and his brother Harry for their continued efforts.
“Thank god there are people like them in the world who continue to shine a light on the issues of conservation and the environment around the world.
“Without them the vital work that is carried out by incredible people in Africa on the ground would not get the help or the respect it deserves.”
Dr Morkel has been instrumental in some of the most impactful conservation translocations in recent decades, including collaring forest elephant across the Congo Basin, assisting with the translocation of six black rhino from South Africa to Zakouma National Park in Chad, collaring and moving giant sable in Angola and assisting with the translocation of giraffe in Murchison National Park in Uganda.
Julius Obwona was presented the Tusk wildlife ranger award for his bravery and dedication to the fight against poaching in Uganda.
Before being presented with the award by the duke, wildlife ranger Mr Obwona said: “Prince William has shown he is a man of honour who is very dedicated to the world of conservation and for that we are very thankful.
“He shares my views and passion that we must empower the communities to share the burden of protecting our wildlife and our lands.
“We need to work with the stakeholders and empower the communities.
“It is often dangerous and we need to educate the people around us and encourage love for our world around us.”
William also presented Vincent Opyene the Tusk award for conservation for his work changing how Uganda tackles wildlife crime.
Mr Opyene used his field patrol experiences for the Uganda Wildlife Authority and work as a state prosecutor to establish the Natural Resource Conservation Network (NRCN).
The NRCN is a partnership between civil society and government to improve how wildlife laws are enforced.
Mr Opyene said the duke told all the finalists he appreciated the work they were doing.
He added: “It gives us a lot of stamina to go back and do better work.”