Bolivia Arrests Five Notorious Chinese Jaguar Traffickers In Collaboration With Earth League International

Following a three-year investigation by Earth League International (ELI), Bolivian authorities arrested five Chinese nationals who were South America’s most notorious jaguar traffickers. The arrests were made as part of “Operation Jaguar,” in collaboration with the Netherlands’ National Committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN NL).

Bolivia’s Ministry of Environment and Water confirmed on their Facebook page that the perpetrators were arrested for trafficking jaguar parts from Bolivia to China and are now behind bars or out on bail in La Paz.

“Undercover investigative operations on the kingpins at the top of the international wildlife trafficking networks are crucial to disrupt the criminal exploitation of nature,” Andrea Crosta, Founder of Earth League International, told WAN. “The Bolivian authorities, using our information, did a great job. It’s just the beginning.”

Earth League International investigated the criminal networks behind jaguar trafficking in Bolivia and unveiled the traffickers’ modus operandi and transport methods, routes, and geographical hotspots. In 2020, ELI and IUCN NL published a report unveiling the criminal networks behind this illegal wildlife trade in Bolivia.

“Infrastructural developments and the influx of Chinese companies in recent years have been indirect drivers for the surge in jaguar trafficking in Bolivia, both through opening up previously inaccessible wilderness territory and providing new sources of consumer demand,” explained Operation Jaguar project leader Liliana Jauregui of IUCN NL. “Jaguars suffer a double threat: jaguar fangs and parts are trafficked as is, but are also as substitutes to tiger canines due to their very large size.”

ELI launched operations in the South American region in 2017 with a series of activities to collect and update information on the entire breadth of the illegal supply chain of jaguars and other wildlife products. Activities included field interviews, surveillance operations, use of undercover operatives, and various analysis.

More than 50 people of interest were identified by ELI in Bolivia, and in collaboration with Bolivian authorities, the organization focused on the most important traffickers at the head of one of the largest syndicates.

Poaching and trafficking are dramatically diminishing wild populations of jaguars and ravaging their broader native ecosystems in South America. Jaguars are poached for their meat, teeth, bones, skins, penises, and testicles.

In the past few years, the price of jaguar fangs has surged. The street price for teeth in Asia is now more than 10 times greater in South America, fueling an illegal export boom across the Pacific Ocean. Sadly, some people are under the false impression that they have medicinal power or serve as an aphrodisiac.

Environmental crime, such as poaching, wildlife trafficking, illegal logging, and illegal fishing, has become one of the world’s largest criminal enterprises and more pervasive than the illegal trade in small arms. It is currently increasing by about 7% per year.

Often overlooked, environmental crime is enriching transnational criminal organizations, human smugglers, militias, and terrorist groups while diminishing the security, survival, and health of Indigenous communities. It is also responsible for desimating  populations of tigers, elephants, rhinos, sharks, whales, and jaguars. Environmental crime is also destroying critical ecosystems and accelerating global warming, fueling the Earth’s extinction crisis.

The Andes and Amazon have become a hotbed of international wildlife trafficking syndicates. Bolivia is one of the most biologically diverse countries on Earth, home to the Amazon’s tropical rainforests, high-altitude Andean ecosystems, and the dry forests of the Chaco.

Bolivia has designated nearly 20% of its territory as protected lands, yet these regions are home to more than 1.5 million people and are difficult to police. The country has become a global epicenter for organized crime, with tremendous overlap among criminal syndicates for narcotrafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, and environmental crime.

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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