Journal Article

Illegal trade in wild cats and its link to Chinese-led development in Central and South America


Seizures of hundreds of jaguar heads and canines in Central and South America from 2014 to 2018 resulted in worldwide media coverage suggesting that wildlife traffickers are trading jaguar body parts as substitutes for tiger parts to satisfy the demand for traditional Asian medicine. We compiled a data set of >1000 seized wild cats (jaguar [Panthera onca], puma [Puma concolor], and ocelot [Leopardus pardalis]) from 19 Central and South American countries and China. We ran generalized additive mixed models to detect trends in wild-cat seizures from 2012 to 2018 and assess the effects of socioeconomic factors of source countries and between those countries and China on the number of wild cats seized. Jaguar seizures increased over time, and most of the seized jaguar pieces were canines (1991 of 2117). Around 34% (32 of 93) of the jaguar-part seizure reports were linked with China, and these seizures contained 14-fold more individuals than those intended for domestic markets. Source countries with relatively high levels of corruption and Chinese private investment and low income per capita had 10-50 times more jaguar seizures than the remaining sampled countries. The number of Chinese residents in Central and South America was not significantly related to the number of jaguars seized. No socioeconomic factors influenced the seizures of puma and ocelots. Legal market chains may provide structure for the illegal chain; thus, the influx of illegal jaguar products is potentially a side effect of the economic partnership between Central and South American countries and China. Poverty and high levels of corruption in the source countries may motivate local people to engage in illegal activities and contribute to the growth of this trade. Supply-side interventions to curb this threat to Neotropical wild cats may include improved training for officials and promotion of governance and the value of protecting these animals to local people.

Attached files


Morcatty, Thais Q.
Bausch Macedo, Jonathan C.
Nekaris, K. Anne-Isola
Ni Qingyong
Durigan, Carlos C.
Svensson, Magdalena S.
Nijman, Vincent

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of Social Sciences


Year of publication: 2020
Date of RADAR deposit: 2020-07-03

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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