Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, arrived in New York City Sunday, kicking off an intensive three-day tour in support of charities close to their hearts. 

After a short meeting this morning with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in D.C., William provided the keynote address to members of the the World Bank Group’s International Corruption Hunters Alliance, a gathering of officials who strive to fight corruption through "global knowledge but local initiatives." In prepared remarks, William described the illegal wildlife trade as "one of the most insidious forms of corruption and criminality in the world."

"Some endangered species are now literally worth more than their weight in gold," he said. "Traffickers are taking advantage of globalization, hiding within the huge flows of goods across borders and exploiting technology — from helicopters and precision weapons to the borderless market of the Internet.

"Together they loot our planet, to feed mankind’s ignorant craving for pets, trinkets, cures and ornaments derived from the world’s vanishing and irreplaceable species."

Prince William on wildlife tracking

Prince William says countries like China need to do more to curb the growing market for ivory. (Photo: Clarence House)

Over the last several years, William has made conservation a pillar of his charitable work, becoming a patron to organizations like Tusk Trust and even founding his own collaborative nonprofit, United for Wildlife

“Our collective goal must be to reduce the wildlife trade by making it harder: denying traffickers access to transportation, putting up barriers to their illegal activities, and holding people accountable for their actions," he said. 

His remarks come at a critical moment in the poaching crisis, with elephant and rhino populations on the brink and even giraffes suffering what some are describing as a "silent extinction."

"In South Africa, the number of rhinos killed by poachers in 2007 was 13," shared the Duke. "In 2012, it was more than 600. In 2013, more than 20,000 elephants were killed on the African continent, with numbers poached now exceeding the rate of births. And there are now only 3,200 tigers left in the wild."

In addition to the World Bank event, William will co-host a conservation reception with Chelsea and Hillary Clinton. Kate, meanwhile, has been spending time in Harlem visiting the Northside Center for Child Development, which provides therapy and counseling for families in New York City. 

After taking in New York City, including a visit to the Empire State Building and an NBA game, the royal couple will return to the United Kingdom on Tuesday. 

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Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

William and Kate's U.S. visit includes focus on wildlife trafficking
Couple's first visit to New York City and Washington, D.C., is a philanthropic tour de force.