The Duke of Cambridge took part in his first webinar as he renewed calls for an end to the illegal wildlife trade in light of the coronavirus crisis.
William joined a virtual meeting of the United for Wildlife Taskforces and highlighted the public health risks of the trade and the urgent need to prevent future zoonotic disease pandemics.
“Believe it or not, this is my first webinar,” he told speakers including Lord Hague of Richmond.
Members of the royal family have had to adapt to online official duties during lockdown, with even the Queen, 94, carrying out her first ever video conference call amid the pandemic restrictions.
William joined conservation experts from around the globe as the taskforce discussed the links between zoonotic diseases – which leap from animals to humans – and the wildlife trade.
He said in his speech: “Never before have the public health risks of the wildlife trade come into such sharp focus.
“Never before has there been greater public awareness about the dangers of zoonotic diseases like Ebola, Sars, Mers and Covid.
“And never before has the global incentive to act been so high.
“Right now, there is a real chance to ensure that the urgent steps that the world must take to prevent future zoonotic disease pandemics are designed in a way that also helps to eradicate the illegal wildlife trade.”
Scientists believe coronavirus may have originated in bats, and was then transmitted through another mammal such as a civet cat or an armadillo-like pangolin before being passed on to people at a fresh food market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
In an effort to block future outbreaks, China has cracked down on the trade in wildlife and closed some wet markets.
A World Health Organisation is planning a mission to investigate the origin of the Covid-19 illness.
William said the move towards the end of the illegal wildlife trade would require concerted effort from international organisations, governments, law enforcement, the NGO community and the private sector.
He added that “2020 has taken a different, heart-breaking course from what we had expected back in January”.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has ruined lives and threatened livelihoods across the world,” he said.
“It is important that we learn the lessons from this pandemic, including looking at why the outbreak happened, why it was not stopped earlier, and what can be done to manage any outbreak in the future.”