Film & TV Location Fixer | Environmental Photographer | Expedition Leader

Elephant tusks, rhino horn, tiger skins and a Merry Christmas

I usually don’t follow the mostly trivial news about the British Royal Family, but I couldn’t help noticing the gift under the Queen’s Christmas tree.


As part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Prince William and Kate visited
the Coral Triangle In late 2012, traveling to the East Coast of Sabah on Borneo and also spending of a few days in the Solomon Islands.

Illegal wildlife trade is a huge problem in the Coral Triangle and according to a report by
USAID, 40% of Asian wildlife species could be lost within this century. The illegal wildlife trade is very complex and traffickers go to extreme lengths to conceal their illegal cargo. Protected animals and plants are smuggled to be used as traditional medicine, for the pet trade, as food, for their skins, furs and wools and as curios and trophies. The culprits often process and declare their “products” as something else, leaving customs officials clueless.

Endangered animals and their parts, as well as plants are smuggled to be used

  • as traditional medicine (tiger bone, bear gall bladder, pangolin scales, rhino horn, seahorse, manta gill rakers, etc)
  • for the pet trade (reptiles, birds, mammals, fish, etc),
  • as food delicacies and tonics (humphead wrasse, groupers, sharks, turtles, tortoises, deers, pangolins, snakes, etc.)
  • as curios and trophies (elephant ivory, turtle shells, mounted insects, etc)
  • for luxury goods (oils, skins, furs, wools, bark, etc)

TRAFFIC, a strategic alliance between the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is working closely with Coral Triangle governments and other Asian countries to train their enforcement agencies and provide them with the essential knowledge to take on this illicit multi-billion dollar industry. Although certain success is made in confiscating shipments of illegal wildlife, most of the time the animals are already dead and processed. The total number of illegal shipments that go undetected is unknown, but is considered to be extremely high given the trade is the fourth most lucrative transnational crime in the world, and is estimated to be worth between 10-20 billion dollars per year; as being highlighted by Prince William during a symposium on international wildlife trafficking in London earlier this year.

According to the
The Telegraph, the Royal Family will be celebrating this year’s Christmas at the Queens Sandringham estate, a home which is supposedly furnished and decorated with hunting trophies that the royals have collected over hundreds of years, including tiger skins, rhino horns, elephant tusks, stuffed lions and even a stuffed baby white rhino. Many of these trophies are from animals that are considered endangered species today and protected under various international laws and treaties. Off course, all these animals were shot long before World War II and none likely by current members of the royal family.

Buckingham Palace is now considering removing these collectors items, possibly due to Prince William’s call for the
destruction of all Ivory artefacts owned by the royal family, an action that would send a clear message to the traders of illegal wildlife products. It is encouraging to see in particular the younger generation of the royal family using their celebrity status in support of conserving our natural treasures.

So who did sent the Queen
The Coral Triangle book? Could it be Prince William or Kate? May be it was our publisher? Unfortunately the truth is that I just day-dreamed of our publication being royal appointed and photoshopped it under the royal Christmas tree Happy

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.