The Duke of Cambridge has hailed today's major international conference on the trafficking of endangered wildlife as the "beginning of the end of this despicable trade".
The Prince of Wales, a long-term campaigner on the environment and animal welfare, will give the keynote speech later today at the summit attended by African leaders and ministers from many world governments.
The London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade is being hosted by the UK government at Lancaster House and will also be attended by Prime Minister David Cameron and William.
It is hoped that following discussions nations will sign a declaration that will commit them to a range of goals to combat the poaching that is threatening animals like tigers, elephants and rhinos.
Speaking last night at a Natural History Museum reception attended by animal conservation charities, philanthropists and leading wildlife campaigners the Duke said: "Never before has a group like this come together - in these numbers - to stop the illegal trade in wildlife. All of us in this room have a duty to make sure that tomorrow, 13th February, is a date that marks the beginning of the end of this despicable trade.
"The conference will bring together leaders from around the world who will pledge to reduce both the supply and the demand driving this trade."
William, who like his father has a passion for animal conservation, said: "Let's not for a second underestimate how important this step is.''
Prime Minister David Cameron will cut short his attendance at the international conference to focus on dealing with the flooding that has brought misery to residents living in parts of southern England particularly the Thames Valley. He had been due to speak at the London Conference alongside Charles and Foreign Secretary William Hague but a Downing Street spokeswoman said: "The Prime Minister will briefly dip into meet with international leaders attending the event but his attendance will be cut short.''
The new Cabinet committee on flood recovery will meet later today replacing a scheduled meeting of thefull Cabinet.
The leaders of countries who have already made a commitment to tackle poaching will be among the delegates including the presidents of Botswana, Chad, Gabon and Tanzania.
In total 46 nations will be represented and 11 international organisations.
Maria Mossman of Action for Elephants UK said: "There's a strength of feeling about the devastatingpoaching of elephants that is very real, and growing.
"It is excellent that the British government is taking the lead internationally, so we are going to be outside of the summit saying - we support you, so don't mess it up."