Prince William pays tribute to 'much-missed' queen in wildlife speech

Prince and Princess of Wales visit the Guildhall Windsor

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Prince William spoke on Tuesday of his "much-missed grandmother" Queen Elizabeth as he called for action to tackle the illegal wildlife trade saying it was destroying lives and endangering too many species.

In his first speech since being made Prince of Wales following the queen's death last month, William told the United for Wildlife Global Summit how he had been inspired to care about the environment by his father, now King Charles, and his grandparents, Elizabeth and her late husband Prince Philip.

"Our natural world is one of our greatest assets. It is a lesson I learnt from a young age, from my father and grandfather, both committed naturalists in their own right, and also from my much-missed grandmother, who cared so much for the natural world," William said.

"In times of loss, it is a comfort to honour those we miss through the work we do," he told the summit at London's Science Museum where 300 leading figures from the private sector, conservation organisations and law enforcement had gathered.

William, who has campaigned for some years on the issue, said the world did not have the "luxury of time" to combat the illegal trade which is estimated by United for Wildlife to be worth up to $20 billion annually and is linked to violent crime, corruption and trafficking.

"There are still too many criminals who believe they can act with impunity, too many lives being destroyed, and too many species on the brink of extinction due to this heinous crime," he said.

William also paid tribute to Anton Mzimba, a ranger who was shot dead at a nature reserve in South Africa in July.

"The devastating news about Ranger Anton Mzimba is shocking confirmation of how vicious the illegal wildlife trade is," he said.

"He stood up to violent criminals and paid the ultimate price. It is only right that we pay tribute to him and all the other selfless rangers and frontline conservationists here today."

(Reporting by Michael Holdend; editing by Jonathan Oatis)