Although jaguar poaching is common in neighboring Suriname, local conservation management bodies say there are no official reports of such activities in Guyana, where concerns focus on better management of potential conflicts between cats and farmers.
In Suriname, Jaguars are traded on the black market and sold to Asian buyers made up mostly of Chinese nationals.
In September, an investigative report produced by InSight Crime, an investigative journalism organization, highlighted that the trade of poaching jaguars begins with miners, loggers and hunters, who have the opportunity to have a jaguar deep in the Amazon forest, or experienced poachers who n going out to the field to kill a jaguar “on the off chance they can sell it, or have a buyer already lined up.”
After the animal is slaughtered, it is sold to local Chinese traders who set up around the mining camps. Buyers then get the animal to processors in Suriname’s capital, Paramaribo, who boils it down to a kind of paste that is later smuggled out of the country.
The paste, which is thought to have medicinal properties, is made from the big cats, especially tigers.
Although there are virtually no cases of such activity in Guyana, two documented cases of smuggling are reported to the Guyana Wildlife Conservation and Management Commission (GWCMC).
Deuel Hughes, GWCMC’s Public Relations Officer, said a case was recorded in 2018, when a Chinese national was caught in Suriname with four jaguar teeth after traveling from Guyana. This issue was addressed by Surinamese officials, he said.
An investigation is under way to track the reported sale of jaguar parts brought to the Commission’s attention via a Facebook post.
Hughes explained, from the Commission’s experience, that jaguars are often killed in Guyana when they meet cattle farmers. “In some cases, when a jaguar is killed, the teeth are taken at a chance by farmers and forest dwellers who find the carcasses. However, we cannot check whether these are being sold or smuggled, ”he explained.
However, expressing concern over this trade, Hughes said the Commission had the power to prosecute people caught in the act.
“Our legislation gives us the power to address such issues. Regulation 4 (7) of the Conservation, Management and Sustainable Use of Wildlife Regulations (2019) states that jaguars are protected and it is an offense to collect, hold, capture, hunt or otherwise molest a protected species. The penalty for such action is a fine ranging from $ 750,000 to $ 2,000,000 and imprisonment for up to 3 years, ”he said.
Hughes further noted that whenever a report is made, a full investigation is carried out to find out the details and to finally identify any wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, Conservation International (CI), in an invited comment, said that every effort must be made to protect and ensure that Guyana’s rich and unique wildlife, biodiversity and diverse ecosystems are conserved and maintained.
“We are concerned about the recent reports of poaching Jaguars extensively for trade in Suriname. The practice of unsustainable exploitation and killing of wildlife, especially protected and almost threatened species as Jaguar’s iconic national symbol – must end, “said Curtis Bernard, Guyana’s Senior International Conservation Technical Director.
Speaking on behalf of CI, Bernard said that every effort must be made to reduce human conflict with wildlife.
“We are not aware of any reports of poaching Jaguars on a similar scale [to] reported that in Suriname but aware of human conflict with the wildlife. We believe that this can be reduced by efforts to better manage human encroachment into wildlife habitats and to adopt policies and practices that will prevent these conflicts, ”he added.
On this note, he emphasized that CI Guyana supports efforts to raise awareness of Guyana’s important species and works with communities to develop the sustainable livelihoods needed to maintain their natural wealth.
“Conservation International-Guyana has worked over many years to help develop sustainable uses of these assets through methods such as nature-based tourism, sustainable harvesting of products, and innovative financing,” Bernard highlighted.
Guyana’s entire coastal and inland forests, wetlands and other ecosystems and the diversity of life they maintain, he said, must be managed wisely for the benefit of this and future generations.
He noted that these efforts are extremely valuable economic, cultural and environmental assets for the country.
The jaguar are the largest cat in Guyana and the Americas but are threatened mainly by habitat loss, poaching due to livestock predation, demand for jaguar parts, prey decline, and fear.
During a webinar organized by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Women in Nature (WiNN) on International Jaguar Day, celebrated yesterday, Dr Evi Paemelaere, an international conservation biologist who has done extensive work with jaguars in Guyana, said. although predators are predators, jaguars provide exceptional benefits to the forest through their daily activity.
“Grazing animals that are not afraid of predators can easily destroy vegetation along the river but with a jaguar around it helps prevent river bank erosion [by scaring them away] a [to] protect the surrounding trees to help regulate the temperature. So predators like jaguars can help these plants do their jobs, ”said Paemelaere.
“When biodiversity decreases the risk of zoonotic diseases increases. We are living the result of that now. Jaguars help us maintain this biodiversity so we can say that jaguars are the doctors of the forest by keeping it healthy, ”Paemelaere further added.
With Guyana’s new forest barely touched, Paemelaere said it’s the perfect habitat for jaguar conservation. “Guyana is an important country for nurturing jaguar conservation because of its rich and extensive habitat with a low human population. The forest plays an important role in the survival of jaguars, ”he said.