Jaguars face a number of threats, from habitat destruction and fragmentation for agriculture to poaching, trophy hunting and retaliatory killings by ranchers. The cats are estimated to have lost nearly half of their historic range and to have declined by as much as 20 to 25 percent over the past three generations, which is why the species is listed as nearly threatened on the IUCN Red List.
Jaguar skin for sale in the Passage Paquito section of Belen market, Iquitos. Steve Winter / National Geographic<p>"In Southeast Asia, jaguar claws and teeth are worn as jewellery; their skins are bought for home decor; and a glue paste (made from boiled jaguar parts) is consumed to heal various ailments," Braczkowski and co-authors write in the paper. "Most organized trafficking appears to be by contractors working for foreign companies hired to hunt cats to export body parts. With Latin America's current ayahuasca and shamanic tourist boom there are additional demands for jaguar products."</p><p>Braczkowski and the team conducted an investigation between August 2016 and August 2019 into the jaguar parts trade in markets in three Peruvian cities that are considered top ayahuasca tourism destinations: Lima, Iquitos and Pucallpa. They found jaguar skins for sale at prices ranging from $49 to $152, paws that could be purchased for $9, jaguar skin purses available for $6, and stuffed jaguars heads for which the asking price was anywhere from $30 to $91. Jaguar canines can fetch between $61 and $122 each.</p><p>"Every single place we went to look for jaguar skins, jaguar teeth, we found them," Sharon Guynup, a co-author of the paper, told Mongabay.</p>
Jaguar teeth for sale in the Passage Paquito section of Belen market, Iquitos. Steve Winter / National Geographic<p>Through discussions with street vendors, shamans and people working in the tourism industry, the researchers found that jaguar canine pendants, jaguar skin bracelets and other jaguar products are being sold to tourists under the pretense that they somehow enhance the ayahuasca experience. Ayahuasca is a psychoactive brew made from the ayahuasca vine (<em>Banisteriopsis caapi</em>) and chakruna leaves (<em>Psychotria viridis</em>). It has traditionally been used for spiritual and physical healing in ritual shamanic ceremonies, but has also become popular among recreational users in recent decades.</p><p>"This appears to be a case of rebranding, specifically using 'ayahuasca marketing' for sellers to charge a premium on jaguar parts," the researchers write in the paper. "Local indigenous shamans and healers from the Pucallpa area (Shipibo, Conibo, and Ashaninka ethnicities) denied the notion that jaguar parts enhance the ayahuasca experience for visiting tourists, and suggested that this practice is being marketed by 'charlatan shamans' seeking financial gain from the ayahuasca boom."</p><p>The researchers suggest that one way to effectively halt this growing illicit trade is to more formally regulate ayahuasca tourism and educate both tourists and tour operators. "The shamans we encountered in Iquitos and Pucallpa stressed the importance of the jaguar to the Amazon ecosystem and as a powerful totem in the spiritual world," they write in the paper. "The leadership of ayahuasca retreats could be important champions for jaguar conservation in Peru, Costa Rica, Colombia, Brazil, and other regions where ayahuasca is used, and they could discourage tourists from using jaguar parts."</p>
Jaguar teeth and a jaguar skull for sale in a craft market in Yarinacocha Market, Pucallpa. Alex Braczkowski / Mongabay<p>Peru already has a national anti‐wildlife trafficking policy in place that punishes traffickers with a prison sentence of 3 to 5 years. Guynup said that, during their investigation of local markets, the researchers found a number of purveyors of jaguar products who exercised caution in their dealings with would-be buyers, suggesting that there has been some enforcement of anti-wildlife trafficking laws. But she called for the government of Peru to be more aggressive in enforcing its laws.</p><p>"The Peruvian government needs to recognize that this is happening and address it. There are good wildlife laws in Peru, I think they need to be better enforced and if they're not, there's very little reason for this trade to end," Guynup said.</p><p>"A big factor here is also education, for ayahuasca tourists and for tourists in general, not only on the plight of jaguars but the plight of endangered species in general. It's not that this trade is specifically [due to] ayahuasca tourism, there's a much broader trade that does include trade to Asia. But this is a piece of the puzzle and it's really important for potential consumers to be aware of this and not participate."</p>
Jaguars in Mato Grosso Sur, Brazil. Steve Winter / National Geographic
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By Shreya Dasgupta
The fires ravaging the Amazon forest in Brazil and Bolivia this year have burned key habitats of at least 500 adult, resident jaguars as of Sept. 17, rendering them dead or homeless, say experts at Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization.
Map showing burned areas in Bolivia and wild cat presence. Image courtesy of Panthera.
Burned habitat in the Brazilian Pantana. Image by Oncafari.
Marsh deer in Bolivia, one of the jaguar's prey. Image by Juan Carlos Urgel.
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By Lucy EJ Woods
In early April the mutilated body of a jaguar was discovered in Mexico's Yaxchilán Natural Monument.
Researchers investigating the death quickly concluded that the animal, which had been tracked in neighboring Guatemala since 2015, had crossed the border and fallen prey to wildlife traffickers, who may have taken its head for sale on the black market.
Tikal National Park also contains culturally important Mayan temples.
Jason Houston / USAID
Jaguar camera-trap photo.
Kaxil Kiuic, A.C. / The Revelator
Human vs. Jaguar<p>Drug traffickers "use the jungle like a shield," said García-Anleu, explaining that criminals set ablaze swaths of forests to clear land for private airstrips. "This is why the majority of the forest fires occur in this [border] part," he explains, pointing on a map to the western border of Guatemala and Mexico. "Here, you can see a lot of airplanes that narco-traffickers abandon."</p><p>Along with the dwindling numbers of jaguars and rising numbers of drug gangs, you can also find vulnerable families who sought refuge from violence in central Guatemala during the country's decades-long brutal civil war. The 36-year-long conflict ended in 1996 with hundreds of thousands dead, 83 percent of whom were estimated to be Mayan.</p>
Jaguar camera-trap photo.
Kaxil Kiuic, A.C. / The Revelator
A New Threat Emerges<p>On the northeastern side of the Guatemalan border in southern Mexico, James Callaghan, director of the Kaxil Kiuic Millsaps Biocultural Reserve in Yucatan, explains how another human-induced obstacle threatens jaguars across the continent.</p><p>There are "a lot of fatalities from highways, with cars hitting jaguars and killing them," said Callaghan.</p><p>One of the biggest emerging threats to jaguar habitat in southern Mexico at the moment is a proposed interstate train line called the Tren Maya (Mayan Train), which would cross five southeastern Mexican states (Yucatan, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Chiapas and Tabasco) and encourage domestic and international tourism. Multiple jaguar reserves, including Kaxil Kiuic and Calakmul Biosphere on the Mexico-Guatemala-Belize border, will be affected by Tren Maya.</p><p>Alongside other large infrastructure projects in Mexico, such as dams and wind farms, Tren Maya crosses Mayan communal land and will disrupt the migration paths of jaguars and their prey, degrade water sources and decrease forest area.</p><p>"We are not against development," he said. "The big issue is, can it be sustainable? Can we create win-win situations for all of the animals, humans included?"</p>
EcoWatch<p>The same question of balancing human infrastructure needs with wildlife is also being asked further north, in the state of Arizona, where experts say jaguars — along with <a href="https://therevelator.org/texas-black-bears-border/" target="_blank">black bears</a> and <a href="https://therevelator.org/trump-border-wall-vs-wildlife/" target="_blank">many other animals</a> — are threatened by the proposed border wall between the United States and Mexico. Part of Arizona's border with northern Mexico is also a 1,000-square-mile reserve.</p><p>The border wall "would be '<a href="https://www.facebook.com/EcoWatch/videos/244110463190867/" target="_blank">game over</a>' for both jaguar and ocelot recovery in [the U.S.]," said Chris Bugbee, a senior researcher at <a href="Conservation CATalyst" target="_blank">Conservation CATalyst</a>, in a statement alongside a <a href="https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=312074712827287" target="_blank">video</a> released this year of a rare ocelot spotted in Arizona.</p><div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f3d505218d344faf1e3e9033589b0cbb"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/EcoWatch/posts/2319587898054134?"></div></div>
By John R. Platt
At first glance rhinos, pangolins and jaguars don't seem to have much in common.
But there are a few things that link them. For one thing, they're all targets of poachers and smugglers, who traffic in their body parts and threaten the species with extinction.
President Trump announced Thursday that his administration will pursue a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a project that would perpetuate human suffering, harm border communities and halt the cross-border movement of jaguars, ocelots, wolves and other wildlife.
Among animals, the wall would be particularly harmful to highly endangered jaguars. Two jaguars have been photographed north of the border in recent years, but the U.S. population will never reestablish if migration from the small population in northern Mexico is blocked.
The wall would be particularly harmful to highly endangered jaguars.Conservation CATalyst / Center for Biological Diversity
"Donald Trump continues to cling to his paranoid fantasy of walling off the U.S.-Mexico border, regardless of the harm it would do to border communities and wildlife," said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "We already know that walls don't stop people from crossing the border, but Trump's plan would end any chance of recovery for endangered jaguars, ocelots and wolves in the border region."
Billions of dollars have already been spent to construct and maintain hundreds of miles of existing border wall with little to no environmental oversight, resulting in major problems with erosion and flooding in border communities and the blockage of normal wildlife movement across the border. Yet Border Patrol and Homeland Security officials have repeatedly testified that the border wall is nothing more than a "speed bump" that does not stop people from crossing, and just this week an outgoing Homeland Security official called Trump's push for a wall "preposterous" and "an incredible waste of taxpayer money."
"Like many of Trump's ideas, this one has nothing to do with reality," Suckling said. "By any measure the U.S.-Mexico border is more secure now than it's ever been. There is no reason to sacrifice the health of border communities and wildlife for such political grandstanding."
Migration corridors are crucial for the recovery and survival of wildlife along the border, especially those with small populations, including wolves, ocelots and jaguars.
"The border region is home to a rich diversity of living beings," Suckling said. "It's a place where north and south meet and overlap—the only place in the world where jaguars and black bears live side by side. It's this diversity that makes us strong, not some wasteful, immoral wall."
The wall is widely opposed, especially among communities in the Southwest.
"We will not stand by while Trump creates a Berlin Wall on America's border," Suckling said. "We'll fight this Stone Age proposal in every way we can—and if necessary put our bodies in front of the bulldozers."