A Feb. 23 article at Nature reveals a disturbing new trend in jaguar poaching in South America.
Between Aug. 2014 and Feb. 2015 numerous packages of jaguar fangs representing the lives of approximately 100 jaguars were confiscated by law enforcement officials.
Seven had been sent by Chinese citizens living in Bolivia. Eight more were reportedly intercepted in 2016, and a package of 120 fangs was seized in China, says Angela Núñez, a Bolivian biologist who is researching the trade.
The key word here is “China”.
International media attention has been focused on the demand for tiger parts in China for a variety of illicit uses. That has turned much of the focus into other countries for other big cat species.
While speaking with Dallas Safari Club Executive Director Corey Mason about the groups funding of anti-poaching patrols in Africa recently, he noted the shocking increase in poaching of several species including lions that his group has seen on the ground.
Much of that has to do with Chinese demand for lion parts as a replacement for tigers.
Now, jaguars are in the sights of poachers and this disturbing trend is not exactly hidden. In fact Chinese companies are advertising it according to Nature.
In northern Bolivia, where several Chinese companies are working, radio advertisements and flyers have offered US $120 to $150 per fang-more than a month’s income for many local people.
Obstacles to Conservation
This issue is particularly disturbing and could spread quickly causing major damage to jaguar populations throughout South and Central America.
Here is why…
*It’s Not Africa: Major wildlife conservation groups center much of their advertising, work and fundraising around Africa because the donating public is intrigued by anything that comes from that continent. There are less than 1/10 of wild Asiatic elephants in comparison to Africa elephants, yet why do we see almost nothing on elephant poaching and habitat loss in Asia? How many specials have you seen on the African elephant’s decline? Both are tragic but on the Asian front, the situation is much, much worse. Jaguars in South America will not have the media draw of rhinos and elephants in Africa. At some levels it’s all about the money. Sadly.
*Chinese Influence: China has gigantic financial interests throughout Latin America in the heart of the jaguar’s range. A Brooking’s Institute study notes that China-Latin America trade increased from $10 billion in 1990 to $270 billion in 2012. They are currently working on a 3,000 mile railway which will strengthen their influence in the region. Even the best-intentioned officials in countries where Chinese influence is high will have a hard time making inroads into the jaguar poaching issue when Chinese workers are buying and exporting them as has already been proven. Money always equals influence.
*Drug Trade Partnerships: The vast majority of cocaine produced in the world comes from the jaguar’s range. If demand gets high enough smuggling jaguar parts in tandem with drugs could make enforcement even more challenging putting cartel muscle behind protecting the trade.
Jaguars are the most powerful cats on the planet and among the big cats (the ones that can roar) their populations are the most stable. They are however declining in numerous countries and any increase in poaching will send the species spiraling toward serious endangerment.
The wildlife community needs to take notice of what is happening with jaguars and the trade in their fangs now or the species could be in a desperate situation in the coming decade.
The great cat of the Americas deserves much better than that.
Chester Moore, Jr.