Prince William made a passionate appeal against the illegal wildlife trade on the final day of his visit to China.

Speaking at a regional wildlife and conservation conference in Mengman, Xishuangbanna County, Yunnan Province, on 4 March, the Duke condemned the illegal trade, which he says threatens the extinction of an entire species.

The extinction of animals such as elephants and rhinos and pangolins would be an immeasurable loss to the whole of humanity. The illegal wildlife trade is therefore our common enemy. It is a vicious form of criminality: plundering the natural resources of poorer countries, taking lives, hindering development and spreading corruption. It erodes the rule of law, fuels conflict, and may even fund terrorism, the Prince said.

The Duke of Cambridge, who is passionate about wildlife conservation and who is patron of the Tusk Trust charity and president of the United for Wildlife organisation, said he hopes China and the UK can work together to try and fight poaching and illegal trafficking of animal products.

He also commended the country for its conservation efforts so far but said more needed to be done.

China can be a global leader in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade. I greatly hope that the United Kingdom and China can partner with one another in this endeavour, the Prince said, adding it is down to individuals to bring an end to this cruel and vicious trade.

He said: Ending demand for ivory is down to citizens across the world. No tradition or fashion is worth the extinction of an entire species, and no criminal gang should be allowed to destroy any part of nature.

I am sure that there are millions of people who share this conviction. If we can unite on this principle across cultures and continents, ours can be the generation that chooses to maintain the beauty of nature in the wild; that changes global attitudes towards ivory irrevocably; and that stands between endangered species and extinction.

Popularity of ivory in China

Ivory products are popular among affluent Chinese, as they are viewed as a status symbol. Demand has been growing in recent years, which has had a devastating effect on elephant populations across Africa, who are being slaughtered by poachers.

During his three day visit to China, William has tried to raise awareness of the issue. He also paid a visit to an elephant sanctuary in the Wild Elephant Valley in Yunnan Province in south-west China.

The Prince met one of four rescued elephants, who was raised back to health after being injured by a trap that has left a big scar on his hind leg.

Keepers informed him about the elephants subsequent rescue, as William was seen stroking and feeding the animal.