Recognizing a wide range of exceptional individuals and organisations
and raising awareness of the amazing work they do.


prince speech

Your excellencies

Mr chairman of the board of South African national parks

Dear dr Hansen

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

I am delighted to be here for this beautiful gathering tonight.

And above all I am delighted to see you all again for this important event, four years after I first attended this ceremony.

You know how much your project is dear to me, more importantly how much admiration I have for the individuals being honoured tonight, as well as all the rangers of course, the true heroes of biodiversity. Biodiversity and its preservation represent one of the greatest challenges of our time. Allow me to point out a few figures, which I believe speak for themselves: figures from IPBES, which is commonly known as the IPCC of biodiversity. Its latest report, published in the spring, elicited a wave of fear.

It announced that one million animal and plant species from the Earth's surface and the ocean floor were in danger of extinction in the near future. One million from a total of 8.1 million animal and plant species described to date; this means that one species in eight is critically endangered ... In vertebrates, this represents 25% of mammals - one in four - 19% of reptiles and 13% of birds, but more importantly 39% of marine mammals and 41% of amphibians, i.e. nearly one in two species within these families!

Moreover, only a fraction of living species has been discovered so far, and many of them are lost or have already been lost without our being able to measure the loss. Most importantly, the mechanics of destruction is spiraling out of control: if nothing is done to prevent it, IPBES experts herald further acceleration in the global rate of extinction. These figures have naturally prompted a reaction. As we approach key deadlines, such as the iucn world congress in June 2020 in Marseille and COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, to be held in China in 2020, strong responses are called for.

However, apart from the emotion lasting a few days or a few weeks, we have to accept that there is insufficient mobilisation. Of course, progress is being made.

The UN has engaged in important international negotiations on these issues, in which Monaco is actively involved. Many countries have developed protection mechanisms for certain sensitive areas and species, both on and offshore.

And private initiatives are being developed around the world, by responsible businesses, as well as NGOs. For instance, my Foundation has committed to and supported dozens of biodiversity conservation projects since it was established in 2006.

From the Canadian beluga whale to the Chinese tiger, from the monk seal to the Mediterranean bluefin tuna, we have made a commitment to ensure the protection of many species - with a certain degree of success.

But all these initiatives, as relevant and useful as they are, are not enough to counter the dreadful movement of destruction caused by humanity. They are overmatched by the challenge looming ahead: the sixth wave of mass extinction of species, which is likely to upset the equilibrium of our Planet definitively. That is why it is important to engage our contemporaries more effectively, to make them aware of what is at stake today, for our common future. In this respect, the rhino situation is a particularly good example.

It is useful because it is a positive representation of all the species we are destroying. While our contemporaries may find it hard sometimes to get upset about the disappearance of an insect or an amphibian, the rhinoceros has an unparalleled ability to raise awareness, which should be a precious ally for us. The rhino situation is also a good example in that it reveals the mechanisms of destruction: globalized circuits, based on selfishness and ignorance, criminally fueled by the thirst for profit whatever the cost.

It is useful because it maps out concrete and effective solutions to combat a decline which has often seemed inexorable. You are proof of this, and the awards presented tonight are testimony of this fact: it is possible to fight destruction, provided we have the will, and more importantly the courage to do so. That is above all why the rhino situation strikes me as exemplary, and it is also why I am here: to pay tribute to the determination and the exceptional courage of those who are fighting, often putting their own lives at risk, to save, to give hope to our children and to enable the species under threat today to continue to contribute to the necessary diversity of nature. By embodying this fight, by giving it a face, a voice, a story, by being true heroes of biodiversity, you are doing far more than saving the rhino: you are helping to save the honour of human beings, faced with the huge responsibility we bear of leaving future generations a habitable Planet.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

Some of you may have seen or read the famous play written shortly after the Second World War by the French-Romanian writer Eugene Ionesco, entitled "Rhinoceros". The play describes a town whose inhabitants gradually turn into rhinoceroses. The book, unravelling like a tale, talks about the rise of totalitarianism and the resigned behaviour that makes it possible. Of course, Ionesco randomly chose the rhinoceros as an image. But I cannot help but seeing it today as a veiled message: this animal, which was for him the symbol of resignation, is now for us, thanks to you, the symbol of resistance.

Resistance, in the face of resignation, in the face of impending disaster. Resistance in which you are the heroes, and for which I am delighted to pay tribute to you today.

Thank you.


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