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Jaguars need global protection from traffickers: Biologists
Cartagena, Colombia

Jaguars need global protection from traffickers: Biologists

The elusive jaguar, the biggest predator cat in the Americas, needs global protection as the demand for its body parts, especially teeth that can bite through a turtle shell, is spiking in China for medicine and making necklaces, biologists warned on Tuesday.

They called for the global environmental organisations like New York-based conservation group Panthera to intervene to protect the falling jaguar population from northern Argentina to Mexico.

"The demand for the jaguar's teeth and other body parts is not of that intensity like that of rhino horn or an elephant tusks. But its poaching is widespread in the entire Central and South America," biologist Nuno Soares of Conservacion Amazonica told IANS.

He is here to attend the Society for Conservation Biology's (SCB) five-day 28th International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB 2017) in this walled city of Colombia where more than 2,000 conservation professionals and students are gathered for biodiversity conservation.

Surveys conducted by Conservacion Amazonica show that every second man in Bolivia has hunted a jaguar at least one in his lifetime.

"We interviewed 165 people and half of them have admitted that they have killed a jaguar once in his lifetime," Soares, who is working on jaguar conservation in Bolivia for five years, said.

Another biologist, Kimberly Craighead of the Kaminando habitat connectivity initiative, who is working with the Mamoni Valley Jaguar Project in Panama, said there is need to address the illegal global trade for the jaguar, whose population is declining owing to deforestation, habitat loss and, of course, poaching.

She said it's also critical to restore the survival of jaguars by maintaining connectivity for movement and preventing the isolation of populations by restoring large reproductive corridors, ranging from the southwestern US to Argentina. For this, a multi-nation effort is required.

Citing cases of jaguar poaching in Panama, which supports eight wildcats per 170 sq km, she said between April and June up to three jaguars were poached in the Mamoni Valley.

"We have authentic information that one of the hunted jaguars was poached for a wealthy Panamanian. To check such acts, there is a need for international intervention by wildlife agencies," Craighead said.

She added jaguar body parts like claws and teeth have a good market in Asian countries.

Biologists reported a relatively healthy jaguar density of four to six jaguars per 100 sq km in landlocked Bolivia.

Soares said the main reason for rise in man-jaguar conflict in Bolivia, especially the Manuripi National Amazon Wildlife Reserve, is the collection of Brazil nuts by native tribe Tocana from the tropical forests.

The Brazil nut is the second most exported non-traditional product after soybean.

The local tribes normally kill a jaguar when it comes near to human habitats or they have a chance encounter with the animal. Normally the jaguar never attacks humans. In fact, they avoid them," Soares said.

According to him, in the past one and a half years over 800 jaguar canines were seized in Bolivia.

(Vishal Gulati is a special corespondant  for the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) currently in Cartagena for the Internews' Earth Journalism Network Biodiversity Fellowship Programme at the International Congress for Conservation Biology. He can be reached at [email protected])