Illegal jaguar trade flourishes in South America

Posted by Leila Stein on 11 June 2020

South America has become a hub for the illegal jaguar trade. These big cats are hunted for their body parts, which are then shipped across the world.

A jaguar surveilling its surroundings.

A report from the first conference on illegal jaguar trade hosted last year in Bolivia showed how demand for jaguar teeth, bones and claws in China and Vietnam has been fuelling the hunting of these cats. Once caught and killed, the desired items are then smuggled back to these countries either through the mail or in passengers’ luggage.

Much like other animals illegally shipped to south east Asia, these parts are desired for medicinal purposes. Jaguar products are being used in place of tigers in most cases, with the jaguar bones being boiled into pastes to treat arthritis, enhance sexual performance among other ailments, according to World Animal Protection.

A recent study has linked the growth in the illegal trade to increased Chinese investment in South America.

The paper explains that after studying reports on jaguar, puma, and ocelot smuggling to China, the researchers found that jaguar smuggling is linked less to the Chinese communities who have been living in South America but more to the new Chinese workers linked to mega-projects supported by the government in the region.

‘These countries that have stronger ties with China, combined with weak governance, combined with high levels of corruption—it’s almost like a recipe for an increase in illegal wildlife trade,’ Vincent Njiman, a co-author and anthropologist who studies wildlife trade told National Geographic.

‘Poverty and high levels of corruption in the source countries may motivate local people to engage in illegal activities and contribute to the growth of this trade,’ said the report.

The study suggests that supply-side intervention in South America including improved training for officials and promotion of the value of protecting the animals to the local population as a solution to this increasing trade.

Image: @UNDP/Twitter


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