Jaguars, classified as a near-threatened species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, are facing loss of habitat by the sudden increase of mining and logging in South America, and are now being hunted, killed and sold on the black market.
The animal can be a source of black glue-like paste which can be illegally traded and exported. The paste is created by boiling the jaguar bodies for up to a week and is traditionally used in ancient Chinese and Japanese medicine. Buyers may pay up to $3,000 for a tube believing it can be used to treat arthritis, enhance sexual performance and improve overall health, according to The Independent.
Jaguar smugglers move frequently to keep their business hidden. In Suriname, a small country south of Brazil, jaguar teeth are obtained and set in gold before being sold in the country’s capital, Paramaribo. Teeth, claws and skulls are considered to be worth around $1,200, while a jaguar carcass could be sold for $260, according to The Independent.
The World Animal Protection, a London-based nonprofit organization, is heading an investigation into the illegal capturing and killing of this endangered species. So far, they have collected evidence of hunts, illegal trade and photos of dead jaguars chained to vehicles.
“The investigation has uncovered a shocking underground trade exploiting an iconic animal of the South American rainforests in a barbaric way for unproven traditional Asian medicine,” WAP Investigations Advisor Nicholas Bruschi said. “Jaguars already face the challenges of habitat destruction and human-animal conflicts. They are now cruelly and needlessly killed, left to die agonizing deaths.”
Today, there are an estimated 17,300 jaguars in the wild. These numbers have continued to drop despite the laws prohibiting poaching.
There has been a recent rise in the domestication of jaguar cubs. The cubs are taken from the wild and sold as pets to wealthy buyers who display the jaguars as status symbols. When the jaguars grow too large, they are killed and are often used in different foods.
“It is extremely sad news for these incredible big cats whose numbers are already in decline,” Bruschi commented. “And, while jaguar cubs might seem very cute, they are still wild animals and belong in the wild, not in the illegal pet trade.”
Over the past 20 years, Chinese immigrants have moved to Suriname in large numbers to run infrastructure operations on major roads and building projects that cut through the Amazon rainforest. This allows jaguar poachers to more easily access different parts of the forest.
“My assessment, based on several sources, is that the number of jaguars killed for their parts in Suriname may amount to well over a hundred on an annual basis,” Pauline Verheij of the International Fund Animal Welfare told National Geographic “It doesn’t take a biologist to understand that these numbers are hugely unsustainable.”
WAP is trying to raise awareness regarding the issue, hoping the Surinamese government will increase patrols to assist in stopping the illegal trade and killing of jaguars. The country has made plans to build a road through the jungle that connects Paramaribo to Brazil, which could potentially open more remote habitats of jaguars.