HomeNewsBriefChinese Smugglers Driving Up Jaguar Killings in Bolivia
BRIEF

Chinese Smugglers Driving Up Jaguar Killings in Bolivia

BOLIVIA / 26 AUG 2016 BY MIMI YAGOUB EN

The trafficking of jaguar teeth from Bolivia’s natural parks to China has sparked worries that Asian smugglers are boosting this illegal trade.

Between 2014 and 2016, 800 jaguar teeth have been seized by Bolivian authorities, suggesting that around 200 animals have been killed, reported the Bolivian Environment Forum (Foro Boliviano sobre Medio Ambiente – FOBOMADE). The teeth were reportedly intended to be smuggled to China.

FOBOMADE reports that the current number of killed jaguars threatens to reach levels comparable to the 1980s, when hunting was still legal. This comes despite a 30-year campaign to stop the practice in protected forest areas. The majority of jaguar teeth seizures have been made in the neighboring Madidi and Pilón Lajas natural reserves, said Teresa Pérez, director of the Environment Ministry’s Biodiversity and Protected Areas Office.

People working to protect the jaguars have reported that some Chinese nationals are responsible for the poaching.

“When tourism was growing and raising people’s awareness regarding laws and preservation, there were very few cases” of jaguar hunting, activist Daniel Manzaneda said. “But since the Chinese came they’ve been killing them by the dozen, as well as ocelots, snakes and who knows what other species.”

SEE ALSO:  Coverage of Eco Trafficking

In May 2016, a Chinese citizen allegedly bought a radio announcement in Rurrenabaque municipality — near Madidi — in which he offered to buy jaguar teeth for $100 apiece. He was later arrested and six teeth were seized. Another Chinese citizen in Rurrenabaque was found with 300 jaguar teeth in 2014, although he is not currently behind bars.

These nature reserves are vast and largely unprotected. While in 1997 there were 25 forest rangers in the Pilón Lajas and Madidi reserves, today there are only 12 covering the 40,000-hectare expanse, and they have to make do with poor salaries and a lack of resources.

One of the detected wildlife trafficking routes from Madidi passes through the town of Ixiamas on its way to Peru.

“Past Ixiamas it’s practically no man’s land,” a local police officer said. “Brazilian mafiosos and Peruvians enter and traffic as they please. Now we’re also seeing Chinese people, I don’t know if they’re competition or if they have agreements.”

According to Pérez, nine Chinese citizens and two Bolivians are currently being prosecuted for jaguar trafficking. In January, the Environment Ministry reported that 60 wildlife trafficking cases have been opened in the past 10 years.

InSight Crime Analysis

Jaguar trafficking in Bolivia could be evidence that Chinese organized crime is further spreading its tentacles into wildlife trafficking in Latin America. To be sure, Chinese demand for exotic food and other goods is a driving force behind what is now one of the world’s largest criminal economies. Jaguar teeth are of great value in traditional Asian medicine. Various Latin American countries feed the Chinese black market, including Mexico, Peru and Ecuador with their offerings of prohibited seafood items.

What’s more, there are signs that the presence of Chinese mafias is growing in the region. Authorities in Bolivia and other South American countries have detected Chinese human trafficking networks.  And as the economic and political ties between China and Latin America deepen, it’s possible that the Chinese criminal groups in the region will strengthen ties to their homeland. 

It is difficult to understand the true reach of Chinese mafias in Latin America, however, as the modus operandi of these groups is notably low-key.

Compartir icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America's largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME / 29 MAR 2011

Mexico police announced the results of a three-day raid intended to crack down on wildlife trafficking, reports Reuters.

BOLIVIA / 5 JUN 2014

Authorities in Peru are implementing new fuel restrictions in an effort to hinder illegal mining operations, but such a measure…

BOLIVIA / 11 AUG 2011

Bolivia will boost the number of anti-drug prosecutors in the country from 43 to 60, including 11 new posts that…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…