Wildlife crime in Suriname and Bolivia threat to unique species

22 January 2019

Early 2018 IUCN Netherlands commissioned Pauline Verheij of EcoJust to conduct an analysis of  wildlife crime in Bolivia and Suriname. This analysis led to a report which was published in January 2019. The report can be downloaded here.


Key findings for Bolivia


Bolivia has very strict legislation in place for the protection of its wildlife. Currently only (parts and products of) vicuña and spectacled caiman can be legally exported, but there are indications that these species continue to be poached and trafficked. Rare and therefore expensive parrots reportedly also continue to be trafficked (via neighbouring countries), but this international trade is dwarfed by the domestic trade in parrots and other wildlife for the pet market. Other key wildlife crime issues include the commercial bushmeat trade and the trafficking of jaguar parts (particularly canines) to China.

Since 2014 Bolivia has seen a surge in trafficking of jaguar parts, which appears almost entirely driven by Chinese individuals residing in Bolivia.

Compliance with Bolivia’s wildlife laws is undermined by the country’s culture which has traditionally favoured the usage of wildlife for consumption and as pets. Other challenges include inadequate law enforcement capacity; a multi-layered government structure which hinders effective collaboration; corruption; and badly controlled, porous land borders through which systematic wildlife smuggling occurs.


Key findings for Suriname


Suriname has a very liberal regime for export of wildlife, in fact the country ranks among the biggest exporters of live, wild-sourced reptiles and birds of Latin America. The government has been unable to answer questions from international organisations (including CITES) about the sustainability of this trade, claiming it lacks the funds to do the necessary research. To date, initiatives to encourage traders to turn to captive breeding have been large unsuccessful. Suriname’s environmental and wildlife legislation is outdated, but an NGO-led initiative is underway to revise this.

Key wildlife crime issues include the commercial bushmeat trade; the illegal cross-border trade in live animals for the pet trade; the illegal trade in sea turtle eggs and the illegal trade in jaguar parts.

There are indications that Chinese individuals have been actively buying up jaguar parts as early as 2003. Furthermore, that an organised network is orchestrating the procurement, processing into medicines and jewellery, sales (domestically, through shops and social media) and smuggling to China. Challenges to curbing wildlife crime in Suriname include inadequate law enforcement capacity and resources exacerbated by a failing economy; diverging regimes for wildlife export within the Guianas which are abused by wildlife traffickers and create incentives for cross-border smuggling; and corruption.


Infrastructure is a major driver for wildlife crime


Both Bolivia and Suriname, like other countries in the Amazon, are undergoing major infrastructure development driven by trade and transportation as well as the search for valuable resources for extraction (e.g. timber, minerals and oil). New roads into wilderness areas are not only driving environmental degradation, they also fuel wildlife poaching and trafficking. Indigenous communities are incentivised to shift away from sustainable hunting practices to unsustainable commercial hunting to feed a demand for bushmeat and live animals for the pet trade, resulting in a depletion of wildlife near roads and settlements. Workers in the infrastructure and mining industries residing in newly created settlements exercise a demand for bushmeat and engage in poaching themselves as well.


Government responses


Whereas Bolivia has been proactive in intercepting illicit shipments and prosecuting those involved in the illegal jaguar trade, until now Suriname appears to be underestimating the seriousness of the situation and should urgently ramp up enforcement efforts to identify and bring to justice key individuals driving the trafficking. Both countries would benefit from technical and/or financial support, both in disrupting the criminal networks and raising awareness amongst key audiences.


IUCN produced a short video to highlight key findings from the report:



Featured photo: Clovis de la Jaille



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