Operating with seeming impunity, wildlife traffickers are now targeting jaguars in South America as the demand for the big cats’ fangs grows in China and other parts of Asia, fueled in part by the rising number of big Chinese construction projects in the region.
Reported on in Nature, two examples of dead jaguars found near such projects only seems to back up what many now fear. An adult jaguar was found floating in a drainage ditch, largely intact but missing its fangs. Just two weeks later “a second cat — this time, an ocelot that may have been mistaken for a young jaguar — turned up headless in the same channel,” writes Nature's Barbara Fraser.
There has long been a domestic market for jaguar parts among Latin American collectors, who value the big cats' skulls, teeth, and skins. But it is the recent expansion of the Chinese interest into this trade, mainly for traditional medicine purposes, that has really worried conservationists working in South America.
The increase in poaching of jaguars is thought to be linked to an increase in construction projects being carried out by the Chinese. Experts have been grimly documenting the uptick in wildlife trafficking that is never far behind the these projects, driven by the fact that Chinese workers can easily send or take objects home, as well as the crackdown on tiger parts causing traders to look for big cat body parts, including lion and leopard, in other parts of the world.