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Boris Johnson attacks ‘lowlife’ traders in illegal wildlife products

The Foreign Secretary saw a haul presented by the Met’s Wildlife Crime Unit including tusks and stuffed big cats.

Boris Johnson has condemned the “criminal lowlifes” trading in illegal wildlife products after seeing a haul of tusks, stuffed big cats and monkey hands seized by police.

The Foreign Secretary made the comment after attending the Metropolitan Police’s Wildlife Crime Unit in London where some of the items recovered from raids on the black market are stored.

Mr Johnson saw items including those taken in the recent Abbas Allawi case, where Met Police raided a Watford property using trained search dogs and found wildlife goods with a street value of more than £1 million stashed in his attic.

Boris Johnson next to a seized tiger skin rug during his visit to a Metropolitan Police Wildlife Crime Unit facility in south London (Simon Dawsoon/PA)

Officers also showed Mr Johnson five rhino horns weighing over 12kg and dozens of raw ivory tusks and carved ivory specimens as well as animal trophies including a stuffed lion’s head and tiger skins.

He heard how there is online demand for primates, including severed monkey hands turned into trinkets and monkey skulls.

He said: “When we think of the illegal wildlife trade, the slaughter of elephants, rhinos and other species teetering on the brink of extinction, we think of Africa, Asia and distant countries where some think this acceptable.

Criminal lowlifes operate right here in the UK and the Met Police and other forces are working to stop them in their tracks Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary

“We rarely associate this crime with our own shores. To say I was angry to see the haul of ivory, rhino horns, animal furs and other items in the gross menagerie of seized illegal animal products in London is an understatement.

“This is not just a crime taking place overseas. Criminal lowlifes operate right here in the UK and the Met Police and other forces are working to stop them in their tracks.

“Criminal gangs trafficking wildlife across UK borders will not be permitted to operate with impunity, but this requires a global effort, tackling both the supply and demand of this odious trade.”

He added: “We will not let up our efforts to ensure that future generations can share our planet with rhinos and elephants and that the criminals who seek to harm them face justice.”

Boris Johnson visits wildlife crime unit facility

The Foreign Secretary also learned about a new technique for taking fingerprints from ivory using iron filings.

Mr Johnson was invited by officers to take his own fingerprint from a tusk to see how the technique worked, to which he joked: “I don’t want to get fitted up for this.”

Officers told Mr Johnson how the technique increased the chances of building a legal case against perpetrators.

His visit to the centre follows on from a recent visit to Asia where he viewed illegally trafficked ivory and pangolin scales seized by Thai customs.

In October, the UK will host an international conference on the illegal wildlife trade, bringing together global leaders to work to end wildlife crime.

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