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Jaguar trafficking linked to Chinese investment in South America

New research teases out what’s driving the illegal trade in jaguar parts.


A jaguar prowls a riverbank in the Pantanal, in Brazil’s Mato Grosso del Sur state. South and Central American countries such as Brazil, which have received high levels of Chinese investment, have higher rates of international jaguar smuggling, a new study finds.

The illegal trade in jaguars is growing, and it’s likely linked to increased Chinese investment in Central and South America, a new study finds. Jaguars are already classified as near threatened, in part as a result of ranchers shooting them in retaliation for attacking cattle and in larger part from deforestation—they’ve lost 50 percent of their historic habitat. Now the illegal international trade in jaguar parts is putting increasing pressure on their declining populations, which are roughly estimated to total 173,000.

A new paper published June 2 in the journal Conservation Biology finds that from 2012 to early 2018 in Central and South America, more than 800 jaguars were killed for their teeth, skins, and skulls to be smuggled to China. That number represents only the shipments that law enforcement has intercepted and that have been reported in the media.

“We knew [the illegal trade] was happening, but not necessarily that it was growing,” says Thais Morcatty, the study’s lead author and a Ph.D. candidate at Oxford Brookes University, in England. “It really concerns us.”

Morcatty and her colleagues collected...

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