“If there’s a demand [in China] for large-cat parts, and that demand can be fulfilled by people living in parts of Africa, other parts of Asia or South America, then someone will step in to fill that demand,” explained Oxford Brookes University’s Vincent Nijman, to Nature. “It’s often Chinese-to-Chinese trade, but it’s turning global.”
This is causing a rapidly growing concern among conservationists working all around the globe. Chinese construction projects, from building highways in Angola to bridges in Tanzania, are becoming increasingly common in developing countries, as the Asian nation hammers out deals with governments to provide infrastructure builds in exchange for mining rights and trading opportunities. Reports such as this latest one on the trade in jaguar parts suggest that there are hidden costs to these deals.
Between August 2014 and February 2015 in Bolivia alone, eight packages on their way to China containing 186 jaguar fangs were confiscated, while a further eight packages are thought to have been stopped in Bolivia in 2016, and a single package containing a shocking 120 fangs was intercepted when it reached China. It is estimated that this might represent up to 100 individual jaguars, most likely just a tiny fraction of what is being shipped across the Pacific.
Jaguars used to roam from the southern United States all the way down to southern Paraguay, but deforestation coupled with killings by cattle farmers has seen their numbers fall to as few as 60,000 animals. It now seems that the cats are having to face a new and growing threat in the form of poachers.