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Project November 29, 2022

The Jaguar's Shadow: Illegal Hunting and Trafficking in Suriname

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Since at least 2007, jaguars in Suriname, one of South America's least-known nations, have been killed, chopped, and illegally exported to supply the market of ingredients used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Jaguar fangs, heads, bones, and meat have been found in jewelry shops, Chinese restaurants, and secret caches in Paramaribo, Suriname's capital. More recently, jaguar bodies are reportedly being boiled for days in enormous cauldrons to create a rat-grey paste that serves some purpose in the Asian market.

Despite some practitioners' and the Chinese government's calls not to use animal components in medicinal practices, the illegal trade of jaguar parts has flourished in South America in recent years. According to a 2020 study, published in the journal Conservation Biology, from 2012 to 2018 at least 800 jaguars were poached and sold overseas. A large chunk of those animals came from Suriname, according to organizations like the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Panthera, and Conservation International.

In this project, Santiago Wills travels to Paramaribo and the jungles of Suriname to track down poachers, follow the jaguar's trail, and understand the conservation strategies that can help protect America's largest feline.

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