Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and former England cricketer Kevin Pietersen have joined forces in a bid to tackle the “horrendous” illegal wildlife trade.
The pair were at Heathrow Airport to see the role the Border Force plays in combating the issue, and were shown the so-called “dead shed” where confiscated items which individuals have tried to smuggle through customs are kept.
Responsible for the frontline detection of banned animals and plants, Mr Johnson told the Press Association he thinks the Border Force do an “amazing job” at seizing a multitude of banned items including ivory and rhino horns.
“Species are being wiped out across the world, the number of animals, mammals, birds, plants, fish, reptiles since 1970 has gone down by about 60% across our planet,” he said.
“We are losing creatures, we are losing species and a lot of it is driven by poaching and these guys are doing a fantastic job at intercepting that illegal contraband.”
With items including animal skins, elephant tusks, stuffed creatures, rhino horns and a bag full of pangolin scales packing the small space, Mr Johnson could be heard expressing his dismay at how some had been attempted to be smuggled in, even referring to those responsible as “sods”.
Asked what struck him most about what he had seen in the dead shed, Mr Johnson said: “I just think it is appalling that people can really believe that their libdo is going to be improved by using pangolin scales or rhino horn – it is shameful.
“We need to stamp out this superstition across the world – particularly in Asia and south Asia it is totally wrong. It is driving the market that is killing rhinos and killing endangered species.”
Wildlife campaigner Pietersen, who highlighted how close to three rhinos are slaughtered illegally in South Africa every day, said he was not shocked by what had been seized, but added: “It is horrendous, it is horrible and is something I don’t want to see.”
The illegal wildlife trade is a serious organised crime with revenues worth up to £17bn a year – more than the combined income of the Central African Republic, Liberia and Burundi.
With around 20,000 African elephants killed by poachers every year – the Government is pushing forward with plans for a ban on ivory sales – which they say will be one of the toughest in the world.
Dad-of-two Pietersen said what drives his passion to stop the brutality of poaching is he wants his children to “be able to see what we can see today”.
“If you look at the numbers and how many there are being killed every single day, that is not going to happen unless good people do wonderful things to protect something which is majestic,” he said.
He added the exciting thing about joining forces with Mr Johnson is that the “Government can go to a level that a cricketer can’t get to”.
“I can do fun things, experiences, put on spiritual journeys for friends who are incredibly wealthy or who I know can create messages, but in terms of getting from Britain to China… that is where the excitement came from,” he added.