A Journey into the Black Market for Jaguar Parts: New Website

Public Domain photo retrieved from Pixabay, uploaded by PublicDomainPictures.

I have previously written about the emergence of a worrying market for jaguar body parts. For centuries, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners have believed that consuming products made from certain animals can imbue users with special benefits.

Tiger parts are supposed to be especially powerful; curing ailments like arthritis and increasing men’s sexual potency. Commodities such as tiger bone wine and skins also serve as status symbols for the elite. As more people in China and Vietnam are able to afford such luxuries, the demand for prized animals parts increases (Sharif, 2014).

Poaching for traditional Chinese medicine has helped to decimate tigers. According to Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, there are only around 3,900 tigers left in the wild. In addition, they have lost 96% of their historic range. Now that tigers are harder to find, Chinese medicine buyers have found a perfect substitute: jaguars.

The relative rarity of tigers means that other cat species are now being used as substitutes for traditional Chinese medicine. Sumatran Tigers by Richard Ashurst. CC BY 2.0

Chinese involvement in Latin America is on the rise, which is bad news for the Western Hemisphere’s largest cat. Chinese citizens are paying large sums of money for jaguar fangs – providing local hunters with extra incentive to kill them. This black-market trade has the potential to turn into a serious problem, and needs to be addressed now.

Bolivian journalist Eduardo Franco Berton did just that. He undertook an intensive and dangerous investigation into the black-market trade for jaguar parts, journeying through three countries: Bolivia, Peru, and Brazil. He interviewed a diverse range of people along the way to get to the bottom of this new threat, and has presented his findings on a beautiful new website.

Berton clearly took this investigation seriously; his new website contains an in-depth account of the illicit trade in jaguar parts. He discusses: the history of traditional Chinese medicine, China’s expanding influence in Latin America, the rising scale of Chinese medicine-driven poaching, why Chinese citizens desire jaguar fangs, and the lack of meaningful consequences for selling jaguar parts.

Penalties for selling jaguar parts are usually minimal, and sometimes only lightly enforced. Jaguar by James. CC BY 2.0

Encouragingly, Berton did find some bright spots. He met Nicholas Mcphee, an Australian ex-marine who was so passionate about big cats that he moved to Bolivia. He also spoke with local people who expressed sympathy towards jaguars, including Bolivian rancher Bruno Bemes and Brazilian fisherman Carlos Souza. Then there is Thais Morcatty: a Brazilian PhD candidate who is the first person to formally study the black-market jaguar trade in her home country.

I cannot go into as much detail about Berton’s website as I would like, because I am busy with The Wildlife Society’s annual conference this week. As such, interested readers should follow this link and check it out for themselves.

We need to spread the word about the black-market trade in jaguar parts quickly, to spur action before it gets too severe.

Click Here to Learn about Eduardo Franco Berton’s Investigation into the Black Market Trade for Jaguar Parts

19 Thoughts

  1. disgusting does not even begin to describe this disturbing new lust for animal parts. i think it was the comedian Chris Rock who once said “that humans are the only species who hunt on a full stomach”.

    yet another example of the depths of diseased mindsets human beings can and do stoop to.

    Thank you for sharing this, my brother.

    It is just shameful that it needs to be shared.

    Thank you again brother

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for stopping by, brother. This whole trade does seem rather morbid, doesn’t it? And as more people in China and surrounding areas attain more purchasing power, the pressure on animals like jaguars is likely to increase.

      I am genuinely happy that more people in China are increasing their socioeconomic status, and therefore are able to live more comfortably than they had before. That’s good: everyone should have the chance to improve their lives and rise out of poverty. But we need to work hard to stop the poaching of rare and threatened animals.


      1. Absolutely brother. We have similar problems here in South Africa with Rhino horn poaching and “pay for hunting” where many wealthy individuals mostly from outside the country come and pay large sums of money to “hunt” rare and endangered animals. It is a sick state of affairs but as you say the tide of public opinion is crucial – as the old slogan goes “when the buying stops, the killing will too”.

        Stay well brother and salute to you!


        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m glad you brought up trophy hunting. Many conservationists in North American and Europe defend trophy hunting, because of the revenues it supposedly brings in for conservation. But it’s the absolute definition of colonialism: Africans are banned from killing endangered animals but rich white people are celebrated for doing the same thing. As long as we keep embracing such strategies, conservation will never become the global and inclusive movement that it needs to be.


          1. your words couldn’t be truer brother, the “extension” of “enviro-benevolent colonialism” is truly ghastly as we see men in pith helmets tracking and slaughtering animals for their twisted sense of pleasure – it is heartbreaking to see people paying a hundred thousand US dollars for the ‘right’ to kill an endangered Rhino. Thank you for your insight about the state of affairs in the conservation movements up north and west. We really do have a long way in our struggle – especially agree with your sentiments about the the nexus between poverty alleviation and it’s knock-on effect on the rising demand for rhino horn for example.

            It’s so very convoluted from the triads to the governments to private game range owner to the desperately poor people who are abused with a few hundred dollars in order to poach an endangered species. Struggle remains!

            Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! You should see my first drafts! They tend to be much more ’emotional’ than my finished pieces. Then you should hear how I talk in person…

      But thank you for the compliments! I really appreciate the informal, personal, and humorous qualities of your writing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t remember the name but I used to watch a documentary on the black market trade on wildlife
    and it was one of those gut wrenching ones.
    The mistreatment of the animals was very graphic and painful to watch, they had them locked up in tiny little cages hawking them on the streets, slaughtering and skinning them… it was so disturbing.

    I’ll try to look for it’s name.

    Liked by 1 person

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