In a speech to world leaders yesterday he attacked people who ‘grind up the scales of a pangolin’ in a bid to become more ‘potent’.
He made the remarks in a speech to the One Planet Summit, hosted by France’s President Macron.
Pangolins are heavily-trafficked scaly anteater-like creatures, which have been blamed for transmitting the virus from bats to humans.
The first documented cases of the Covid-19 were in the Chinese city of Wuhan, with a wet market trading in exotic animals being seen as the probable source.
In comments that are likely to risk fury from Beijing, Mr Johnson said: ‘Obviously it’s right to focus on climate change, obviously it’s right to cut CO2 emissions, but we won’t achieve a real balance with our planet unless we protect nature as well.
‘One final thought, don’t forget that the coronavirus pandemic was the product of an imbalance in man’s relationship with the natural world.
‘Like the original plague which struck the Greeks I seem to remember in book one of the Iliad, it is a zoonotic disease.
‘It originates from bats or pangolins, from the demented belief that if you grind up the scales of a pangolin you will somehow become more potent or whatever it is people believe, it originates from this collision between mankind and the natural world and we’ve got to stop it.’
Pangolins are heavily-trafficked scaly anteater-like creatures, which have been blamed for transmitting the virus from bats to humans
In a speech to world leaders yesterday Mr Johnson attacked people who ‘grind up the scales of a pangolin’ in a bid to become more ‘potent’
Pangolins inhabit tropical forests in India, China, south-east Asia and parts of Africa.
Out of the eight existing sub-species, three are critically endangered, and all of them are protected by international treaty.
The general hunting and trading of pangolins have been banned in China since the late 1980s, but the exotic mammals are still trafficked by the thousands for their perceived nutritional value.
Their scales are deemed as a previous ingredient by believers of traditional Chinese medicine.
People also eat their meat for the supposed health benefits and the animals’ blood is seen as a healing tonic.
China has previously denied they are a vector for moving the virus from bats to humans.
Last year researchers in the Communist state found that the animals are indeed natural hosts for various coronaviruses, but do not appear to be the direct source of Covid-19.
In November a different team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences aclaimed the virus likely originated in India in summer 2019 – jumping from animals to humans via contaminated water – before travelling unnoticed to Wuhan, where it was first detected.
Pictured: A map showing the nine countries China has blamed for the outbreak of Covid-19
Boris Johnson in a Protect The Pangolin t-shirt in 2018, while jogging with then Australian counterpart foreign minister Julie Bishop
Mr Johnson has previously called for greater protection for pangolins.
In 2018 he wrote a newspaper article calling for greater efforts to track down on hunting and smuggling the mammal.
He wrote: ‘As we get older we human beings are capable of all manner of self-deception. We go under the knife in the hope of looking younger. We take pills and potions of dubious efficacity.
‘But in the annals of human folly there is surely nothing more delusional than the belief still prevalent in large parts of Asia that a man can somehow rectify his waning virility by grinding and eating the scales of a pangolin.
‘And yet that is what they do. The tragedy is that all eight species of pangolin are now endangered, two of them critically so.
‘We are losing them to poachers at a rate of 100,000 a year. They are smuggled, butchered and cooked – all for the sake of their mythical medicinal qualities.’