Jaguars once roamed from the tip of South America up through Central America into modern day Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. This big cat has seen its numbers decrease over the years in spite of many efforts to protect the jaguar and save those who remain.
One of the major threats to jaguar populations is habitat reduction. Currently, jaguars only live in about half of their former range. Deforestation and the expansion of the human population have caused a step reduction in jaguar numbers.
Jaguars are also under a great threat from poaching. Poaching of jaguars has increased greatly in just the past couple of years due to a demand in the Asian medicine market for jaguar fangs.
Recently, wildlife officials in Belize have found the bodies of poached jaguars with the fangs removed. These fangs are then mailed to places in China that are willing to pay top dollar for the fangs. Officials in Bolivia seized several packages of jaguar fangs that were being mailed by workers from China. These foreign workers are paying locals to bring jaguar fangs to them. The Chinese workers are then mailing the fangs to Asian medicine outlets back in China.
Experts who follow the trade in illegal wildlife parts are seeing a trend developing. In places where there are large construction projects managed by Chinese construction companies, the rate of jaguar poaching is increasing. The same pattern as seen in Bolivia is playing out across Central and South America.
The government of Belize is trying to crackdown on the poaching of jaguars. Belize is now offering rewards of $5,000 to anyone who provides actionable information regarding those who are poaching jaguars or who are involved in the burgeoning trade in jaguar fangs.
In Asian medicine, tiger bones used to be the wildlife part of choice for several products. However, tiger numbers in the wild are decreasing, and there is much more oversight of tiger numbers and the trade in tiger parts. In order to still get product, some Asian medicine producers are obtaining jaguar fangs and selling them as if they were from a tiger.