This past February I shared a story which claimed that the Traditional Asian Medicine trade was taking a heavy toll on Bolivia’s jaguars. Now this article, found on Fox News Latino, says the problem is worse than previously realized.
The Fox News Latino story is based on a report released by the Bolivian Environment Forum, which found that over 800 jaguar teeth had been seized by the Bolivian government between 2014 and 2016. That equals 200 dead jaguars: a number of fatalities that has not been witnessed since jaguar hunting was legal in Bolivia. For a solitary predator that exists at low population densities, such figures could be highly detrimental.
The demand for jaguar teeth is being fueled by belief in Traditional Asian Medicine (TAM), which holds that the body parts of certain animals have special properties. Jaguar parts, for example, are believed to be able to cure rheumatism (Fox News Latino, 2016), increase men’s sexual potency (Metalli, 2015), and more. And as Chinese involvement in Latin America ramps up, so too could their impacts on jaguars (R. Mahler, personal communication, June 17, 2015).
I do not wish to sound overly harsh towards Chinese citizens, because I am sure that not all of them are involved in poaching. But this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. The TAM trade is largely responsible for pushing tigers to the brink of extinction, and it has the potential to do the same to jaguars.
Luckily the Chinese government and non-profit organizations like WildAid have been running an add campaign to dissuade Chinese citizens from purchasing endangered animal parts. This initiative has shown some promise, so there is hope that this latest threat to jaguars can be overcome.