Shocking Investigation Exposes the Black Market for Jaguars

Jaguars in South America are already facing a number of threats to their survival, but poaching as one of them has largely gone under the radar until now.

An undercover investigation conducted by World Animal Protection in Suriname has offered a more disturbing glimpse into how these trafficking operations work, and what’s happening to jaguars who become victims of this trade.

While jaguars are often killed as a result of conflicts with humans, they’re also being targeted by poachers who track and bait them, before brutally killing them. Investigators found that jaguars would be stalked for days and shot numerous times, injuring them until they’re too hurt to escape death.

While they’re killed for their parts, including teeth and claws, and also for their meat, the main driver behind this trade is the demand for jaguar paste, which is made by boiling them down for up to a week to make a thick, paste-like substance.

The paste is then illegally exported to China, where it’s sold on the black market for use in traditional medicine. Even though there’s zero evidence, it’s believed to have medicinal properties and is used to treat arthritis pain, improve sexual performance and improve overall health, among other things.  According to World Animal Protection, a single jaguar can be used to make 20 to 30 tubs of this paste, which can be sold for as much as $3,000.

Sadly, being killed for their parts isn’t the only problem. The investigation also uncovered jaguar cubs being taken and sold for the pet trade, usually to wealthy individuals who keep them as a status symbol. Not only are they confined to inappropriate conditions, once they become too big and dangerous to handle, they’re often killed.

The findings are worrying for the future of jaguars, who are now listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.  While they’re technically protected as endangered in Suriname, which makes it illegal to hunt them, they’re being killed and exploited at a rate that’s putting their survival on the line.

“This 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,” said World Animal Protection’s investigations advisor, Nicholas Bruschi. “Jaguars already face the challenges of  habitat destruction and human animal conflicts. They are now cruelly and needlessly killed, left to die agonising deaths. It is extremely sad news for these incredible big cats whose numbers are already in decline. And, while jaguar cubs might seem very cute, they are still wild animals and belong in the wild, not in the illegal pet trade.”

World Animal Protection has since shared its findings with officials in Suriname, and hope that what was uncovered will lead to increased efforts to protect jaguars, educate local residents about their importance, and stop poaching.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

102 comments

Jack Y
Jack Yabout a month ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Yabout a month ago

thanks

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John J
John Jabout a month ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John Jabout a month ago

thanks for sharing

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Mark Verbossche
Mark Verbossche3 months ago

Always the chinese who are the main driver behind the murder of all species...they will cause the extinction of every animal on this planet, damn them, damn the chinese.

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Angela K
Angela K5 months ago

Petition already signed & shared

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Marija M
Marija M5 months ago

I agree with Georgina E. 200%...so very sad...

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Georgina Elizab M
Georgina Elizab M5 months ago

We are in the 21st century, but reading this article it seems prehistory. Do people really believe in this kind of medicine still? With all the breakthroughs we have had in medicine.Ignorance and money are the demons of the world

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Past Member
Past Member 5 months ago

Not only in South America, in Mexico too. Get your history right.

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Lisa B
Lisa B5 months ago

Jaguars are the one of all big cats that are quickly moving toward extinction

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