Criminal gangs operating in Bolivia and elsewhere in Latin America have developed sophisticated networks to smuggle jaguar parts to China, according to report published on Thursday, November 5, 2020.
The biggest cat in the Americas, with up to 208,000 still living in the wild, is classified as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), whose Dutch branch IUCN NL commissioned the report.
The Earth League International (ELI), which conducted the undercover investigations on behalf of IUCN NL, spoke to 25 intelligence sources in Bolivia and more than 50 sources in other Latin American countries, including Peru and Suriname.
In Bolivia, which counts up to 3,000 jaguars in the wild, infrastructural developments and the influx of Chinese companies have caused a surge in jaguar trafficking by opening up new wilderness territory and providing new sources of consumer demand.
“Chinese attribute medicinal power to jaguar parts and often use jaguar fangs in jewellery to symbolise social status,’’ said Andrea Crosta from ELI.
“Our team was shown hundreds of jaguar teeth for sale. They explained to us that the larger fangs are preferred over the small ones, because of the necessity to carve them,’’ she added.
The trade is ran by Chinese South American residents, according to IUCN NL, While the customers are Asian, mainly Chinese, Bolivian locals act as hunters and middlemen, or conduct sourcing activities.
The criminals have built networks that allow them to smuggle jaguar parts relatively easily, mainly by plane.
They often bribe high-level police officers to cross borders, according to the report said.