Boris Johnson is set to call on the world to save the pangolin, the world’s most heavily trafficked animal, during a United Nations biodiversity summit.
Addressing world leaders with a pre-recorded message, the Prime Minister will warn wildlife is disappearing from the world at a “truly terrifying” rate.
He will single out the “bizarre” pangolin as one species in desperate need of conservation.
The i politics newsletter cut through the noise
Pangolin scales are highly prized in Asian medicine, despite having no proven medicinal value. All eight pangolin species are endangered and protected under national and international law, but that has not stopped hundreds of thousands being killed each year.
PM’s wildlife plea
“Consider the pangolin – that scaly mammalian miracle of evolution boasting a prehensile tongue that is somehow attached to its pelvis,” Mr Johnson will say.
“I don’t believe any of us would choose to bequeath a planet on which such a wonderfully bizarre little creature is as unfamiliar to future generations as dinosaurs and dodos are to us today.
“Yet that is what awaits us if we continue down this road. And that’s not just bad news for the pangolins – it is bad news for all of us.”
As the host of a major climate summit next year, the UK has more diplomatic power to press other governments to change their ways on environment and climate issues.
Mr Johnson will call for “concerted, co-ordinated, global action” to preserve the pangolins and other endangered creatures.
The Prime Minister’s intervention follows new research confirming thousands of reptiles, including pangolins, are traded online every year.
Researchers from Thailand’s Suranaree University of Technology and the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden found 36 per cent of all reptile species were traded on the internet over the last decade, 90 per cent of which were caught from the wild.
The research team wants to see a shift in the burden of proof to make sure that trade is sustainable before allowing these species to be bought and sold and it called for better approaches to the pet trade.
“If we fail to mitigate the impacts of unregulated, but legal trade, small-ranged and endemic species may be the next victims of the ongoing biodiversity crisis,” said report author Alice Hughes.
Speaking to i, the environment minister, Lord Goldsmith, said the UK will “do a lot of heavy lifting around the world” in the coming weeks to get countries to increase their biodiversity ambition.