National Geographic : 2017 Dec
94 national geographic • december 2017 Left: In China jaguar teeth are likely being used as substitutes for tiger teeth, which are turned into necklaces worn as status symbols, or in the belief that they protect the wearer from evil. Above: The trade isn’t limited to Bolivia. In a community outside Iquitos, Peru, villagers sell the skins of jaguars they shot. They say that once a year someone from a nearby Chinese corporation comes to buy the canines but not the skins. STEVE WINTER (ABOVE) n Society Grant Your National Geographic Society membership helped fund this Wildlife Watch story. Visit news.nationalgeographic.com/ wildlife-watch for more reporting on wildlife crime. Hunting jaguars, as well as buying, selling, and even possessing jaguar parts, is illegal in Bolivia and has been for years. So is trading in jaguar parts commercially across international borders. But in Bolivia it’s often easy to get away with. Law enforcement is weak, and the price of teeth is high—sometimes $100 to $200 a tooth. “People see it as a way of making money,” says Nuno Negrões Soares, a biologist with a Bolivian conservation organization. “ They know they’re not going to get in trouble.” China’s appetite for jaguars seems to be grow- ing, given that tiger parts—especially teeth, which are worn as jewelry to show off wealth or as protection against evil—are increasingly hard to come by as those endangered cats get scarcer. Meanwhile, Chinese investment and infrastruc- ture deals with Bolivia have brought an influx of Chinese workers, spurring more illegal activities, including jaguar trafficking, according to Anaí Holzmann, a jaguar conservationist in Bolivia. “ The workers know they can make extra mon- ey selling wildlife to China,” she says. “So they do that, sometimes with the help of Bolivians and other Chinese, like people who own restaurants and nightclubs.” On our river patrol we came across an indig- enous man in a boat laden with bananas. He noticed the rangers’ uniforms as our boat pulled alongside his. After some small talk, Marcos Uzquiano, Madidi’s director, turned the conver- sation to jaguars.