Report Claims Traditional Asian Medicine Trade is Behind Dramatic Rise in Jaguar Killings in Bolivia

Jaguar by Michael Ransburg. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Jaguar by Michael Ransburg. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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.

Be sure to click here and read the original article from Fox News Latino

5 Thoughts

  1. I actually have several friends that believe in Chinese traditional medicine. It’s strange because they largely admit that it’s bogus but then it would come out in conversation that they believe x is good for you.
    It’s pretty pervasive and they don’t think about the moral implications (when compared to synthetic alternatives) until I point them out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve known people in the US who believe in it too. I try to avoid arguing about whether or not it’s true, because as an outsider to Chinese and other east Asian cultures I don’t feel like my words would have much weight. But the moral implications are quite severe, so I’m glad you’re pointing that out. The World Federation of Chinese Medicines itself has said that there are plentiful and effective alternatives to using the parts of endangered animals like tigers (and now jaguars), which makes it difficult to justify buying products that exact such a heavy toll on animals that are already threatened by habitat loss and non-TCM related killings.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Good question! From what I’ve heard, there are two main factors that have lead to jaguars becoming part of TAM. First, since tigers have now become so hard to find (as a result of poaching for TAM), other large cats have become substitutes for them. Second, China has been getting increasingly involved in Latin American politics. They are investing heavily into development projects there, which is giving rise to a variety of concerns. One of those is that they now have easy access to jaguars. This will be a difficult problem to address, but it needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.


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