LONDON, October 15, China daily -- Prince William hailed the work of the government of China in combating the illicit sale of ivory during a major trade conference in London, while warning that the ivory trade is now shifting to other nations.

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Prince William praised the efforts of the Chinese government to help stamp out the illegal ivory trade. [Photo provided by the Royal Household]

Speaking from the 2018 Illegal Wildlife Trade conference in the United Kingdom capital, the royal said the price of ivory had fallen by 75 percent during the last four years, partly due to China's ivory ban that came into effect in January.

"Governments around the world, particularly China, the United States, and UK, have taken unprecedented steps to legislate against the ivory trade," he said. "But, as the ivory market is closing down in some countries, it is being displaced elsewhere."

William announced the launch of a financial task force aimed at disrupting money flows linked to illegal wildlife trade. As part of the program, more than 20 international banks and financial institutions have agreed to train staff to identify suspicious transactions that may be linked to the illegal sale of animal parts.

At the conference, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said illegal wildlife trade is the fourth most profitable criminal enterprise in the world, generating as much as $23 billion annually.

"The same criminal networks that smuggle tusks and horns and hardwood also traffic in guns and drugs and people," Hunt said. "They launder money, engage in modern slavery, fund conflict, and thrive on corruption."

The UK government announced it will commit 250 million pounds ($329 million) to the United Nations Global Environment Facility for the protection of wild areas. It also announced the formation of the Ivory Alliance 2024, through which political leaders, conservationists and celebrities are joining forces to tackle ivory demand. The alliance will lobby for markets to be closed, and stronger enforcement of ivory legislation in key demand and transit markets.

The alliance is led by six politicians from around the globe, including UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Elizabeth Quat, a member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said governments need to approach illegal wildlife trade as a serious and organized criminal enterprise.

"The illegal wildlife crime makes us all poorer, not just those countries robbed of their wildlife, natural habitat, and resources, but all of us who are cheated of our natural inheritance, the rich diversity of our living world," May said.

Prior to the event, Minister Ma Hui from the Chinese embassy in London outlined China's contribution to the fight against the illegal wildlife trade.

He said China is committed to protecting elephants and cracking down on the illegal trade of ivory. And he noted that all domestic commercial processing facilities are now closed, and the sale of ivory and ivory products is banned in China. He said China is helping Asian and African countries enhance their wildlife protection capabilities.

At the conference, the World Travel and Tourism Council, also known as the WTTC, said more than 100 companies globally have now signed the 2018 WTTC Buenos Aires Declaration, committing to increasing consumer awareness of illegal trade.

Chinese travel service Ctrip, which has more than 300 million users, announced it will promote the declaration in China, where it will urge companies to raise awareness and promote responsible wildlife-based tourism.

"We will use our mobile applications and websites to increase public awareness of this illegal wildlife trade issue," said Charles Liu, a senior public relations manager at Ctrip. "We fully support the work of the WTTC and the World Wildlife Fund and we want to distribute their message in China through our extensive connections."

Liu said Ctrip is developing new tours in China focused on indigenous animals that are impacted by poaching, such as the endangered Tibetan antelope.

"We want to bring tourists to the habitats of endangered animals, and to engage local communities and farmers, so they benefit from the tourism sector," said Liu. "This ecotourism model has had great success in places like Botswana and other countries. This is something we need to learn from. We are still in the early stage of developing these ideas about how to make this happen."

Liu said Ctrip will also launch a campaign to educate travelers who might unknowingly be contributing to the illegal wildlife trade through the purchase of certain products.