Title

Characteristics of, and uncertainties about, illegal jaguar trade in Belize and Guatemala

Author Information

Melissa Arias

Date of Publication

2020 12:00 AM

Security Theme

Transnational Organized Crime

Keywords

Large carnivore conservation, human-wildlife conflict, hunting, uncertainty, drivers, enabling factors, panthera onca

Description

Recent reports of jaguar trade have emerged throughout Latin America, but, although trade is now considered a high-priority threat to jaguars, its characteristics remain largely unknown. We aimed to gain a deeper understanding of the status of jaguar trade in Mesoamerica, focusing on Belize and Guatemala. We used key-informant interviews to explore the pathways behind the jaguar trade chain, identify the characteristics and motivations of the actors involved, and investigate the drivers and enabling factors behind jaguar trade. We distinguished between concrete evidence and strong beliefs or assumptions, thereby highlighting key areas for conservation action and of uncertainty. Our results suggest that jaguar trade is present in Belize and Guatemala, although current examples suggest it is a domestically-focused and opportunistic activity, rather than an organized international trade. Key drivers included human-wildlife conflict, opportunistic hunting, Chinese demand, drug trafficking, migration, and tourism. The areas of higher uncertainty are the role of external actors and drivers, and of commercial motivations. The main legal and institutional challenges to address this threat include the lack of resources, ineffectiveness of law enforcement, animosities between communities and the government, corruption, outdated legal systems, missing evidence, the lack of mandate of wildlife authorities and safety concerns. Key priorities for conservation interventions and research to prevent jaguar trade from escalating in these countries are to invest in local communities living in proximity to jaguars, while also investigating the role of external actors in jaguar trade, which remained largely uncertain throughout this study.

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Jan 1st, 12:00 AM

Characteristics of, and uncertainties about, illegal jaguar trade in Belize and Guatemala

Recent reports of jaguar trade have emerged throughout Latin America, but, although trade is now considered a high-priority threat to jaguars, its characteristics remain largely unknown. We aimed to gain a deeper understanding of the status of jaguar trade in Mesoamerica, focusing on Belize and Guatemala. We used key-informant interviews to explore the pathways behind the jaguar trade chain, identify the characteristics and motivations of the actors involved, and investigate the drivers and enabling factors behind jaguar trade. We distinguished between concrete evidence and strong beliefs or assumptions, thereby highlighting key areas for conservation action and of uncertainty. Our results suggest that jaguar trade is present in Belize and Guatemala, although current examples suggest it is a domestically-focused and opportunistic activity, rather than an organized international trade. Key drivers included human-wildlife conflict, opportunistic hunting, Chinese demand, drug trafficking, migration, and tourism. The areas of higher uncertainty are the role of external actors and drivers, and of commercial motivations. The main legal and institutional challenges to address this threat include the lack of resources, ineffectiveness of law enforcement, animosities between communities and the government, corruption, outdated legal systems, missing evidence, the lack of mandate of wildlife authorities and safety concerns. Key priorities for conservation interventions and research to prevent jaguar trade from escalating in these countries are to invest in local communities living in proximity to jaguars, while also investigating the role of external actors in jaguar trade, which remained largely uncertain throughout this study.