The Prince of Wales has urged the world not to be distracted by “turbulent times” and lose sight of the importance of protecting the natural world, as conservationists were recognised for their efforts.
William said countries must “remain focused on investing in nature and the environment” in a speech during the Tusk Conservation Awards attended by celebrity supporters like singer Katherine Jenkins and Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden.
Among the winners was Ian Craig, the father of Jecca Craig, rumoured to have dated William, who was a joint recipient of the Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa, a lifetime achievement honour.
William told the guests who included past winners, nominees and sponsors: “We are living through turbulent times and it is all too easy to lose sight of how critical it is that we look after our natural world.
“But we must remain focused on investing in nature and the environment, protecting it for future generations.
“We must not pass on the baton to our children and grandchildren, apologising for our lack of collective action.”
The prince speaking at the event staged at Hampton Court Palace said: “What the awards alumni, their dedicated teams and local communities are protecting is ‘one of the great natural treasures of the world’.
“And yet, we also know that it is just a fragment of what there once was.
“That is why it is vital that we do everything in our power to halt the frightening decline in species that our planet has witnessed over the last 50 years.”
The awards are celebrating their 10th anniversary and are staged by the Africa based wildlife conservation organisation Tusk Trust, which William supports as patron.
Singer Jenkins, a Tusk ambassador, performed at the end of the evening, and chatted to William before the ceremony began along with other guests.
The celebrity, who was joined by her husband, said they had visited some of the organisation’s projects, adding: “So we really admire the work Tusk are doing, I think as parents we feel really passionate, we all have a responsibility globally to do something to end the crisis.”
Mr Craig, who was brought up in Kenya, converted his family’s 62,000-acre cattle ranch into a rhino sanctuary at the peak of the elephant and rhino poaching epidemic.
It flourished and was later re-established as the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy where William and his then girlfriend Kate Middleton spent the summer in 2005.
He is now the chief of conservation at the Northern Rangelands Trust, a grass roots conservation organisation he helped spearhead, which today has 43 member conservancies and works to enhance the lives of local residents and safeguard wildlife.
His daughter paid tribute to her father in a video outlining his achievements saying: “He does what he loves every day”.
The lifetime achievement award was shared with Achilles Brunnei Byaruhanga, executive director of Nature Uganda, the leading membership-based conservation organisation in Uganda, championing the protection of birds and their habitats.
The Tusk Wildlife Ranger Award went to Neddy Mulimbo, senior ranger at the Specialist Anti-Poaching Unit in Mumbwa, Zambia.
For over 35 years, he has played a crucial role in developing anti-poaching operations, spending long periods away from his family, battling malaria and putting his personal safety at risk during night patrols against heavily armed poachers.
Miguel Goncalves, park warden in Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas, won the Tusk Award for Conservation in Africa in recognition of his success as an emerging leader.
Under his direction, the Maputo National Park has been transformed from a hunting ground to a protected and recovering ecosystem.