Wild jaguars cruelly poached to fuel traditional Asian medicine trade

21 September 2018

Our shocking report reveals a deadly trade of jaguar body parts being trafficked illegally from the South American country of Suriname. We urge the government to protect these wild animals.

Warning: some readers might find the following content upsetting. 

These magnificent big cats, known for their elaborate markings, are being poached and processed to be exported to China.

Terrible suffering  

During capture, jaguars are stalked and shot numerous times, suffering multiple injuries until they are killed while they are too hurt to move.   

In one instance it was reported that a jaguar had to be shot seven times until it died, causing prolonged suffering.    

The trade 

Once killed, a jaguar’s body is boiled down for up to a week until it turns into a glue or a treacle-like paste and sold on the black market in tubs.   

Jaguar paste is used in the belief that it can be used to treat arthritis pain, enhance sexual performance and benefit health despite the fact that there are proven alternatives readily available.   

Until our investigation and subsequent report, uncovering a secret slaughter, this illegal trade hadn’t been documented.  

Our work  

Jaguar poaching for traditional Asian medicine is something that has, to date, been relatively under the radar. To tackle the issue, we will be cooperating with Suriname’s rangers and specialist NGOs on tangible solutions and sharing intelligence to prevent poaching.   

We are raising awareness of the issue in the hope that the Suriname government will put greater enforcement within their borders to stop poaching and prevent the smuggling of jaguar paste out of the country.  

In a trip to China last year, our CEO, Steve McIvor, raised concerns over the terrible suffering of animals for use as ingredients in traditional medicines.  

Whilst very respectful of centuries of beliefs that form the foundation of traditional medicine industry in China, he stressed that the suffering and possible extinction that wildlife face is not a price worth paying when continued investment in scientific research would allow for proven and synthetic alternatives. 

A focus of our work across all of Asia is on raising public awareness of the pain and suffering of the animals involved, and moving people to choose cruelty-free, proven alternatives. 

Poached jaguar, photograph taken by our investigations team

Other threats to jaguars

Unfortunately traditional Asian medicine is not the only issue jaguars face.  

It’s estimated that there are approximately only 173,000 jaguars left in the wild, a decline of 20 -25% over the past 21 years. They are classed as ‘near threatened’.  

With more mining and logging resulting in loss of habitat, jaguars are becoming more visible, and are being targeted for taking livestock.   

Habitat loss also makes it easier for opportunist poachers and organised mafia gangs to poach jaguars in the wild.  

There is also evidence of jaguar cubs being taken from the wild and sold – often to wealthy businessmen keeping them as status symbols.   

Barbaric and unproven  

Our investigations advisor, Nicholas Bruschi, said “This investigation has uncovered a shocking underground trade exploiting an iconic animal of the South American rainforests in a barbaric way for unproven traditional Asian medicine.   

“Jaguars already face the challenges of habitat destruction and human animal conflicts. They are now cruelly and needlessly killed, left to die agonising deaths. It is extremely sad news for these incredible big cats whose numbers are already in decline. And, while jaguar cubs might seem very cute, they are still wild animals and belong in the wild, not in the illegal pet trade.”     

You can read our report on this shocking underground trade here. 

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This investigation has uncovered a shocking underground trade exploiting an iconic animal of the South American rainforests in a barbaric way for unproven traditional Asian medicine
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