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Crime Science

, 8:6 | Cite as

The production of jaguar paste in Suriname: a product-based crime script

  • A. M. LemieuxEmail author
  • Nicholas Bruschi
Open Access
Short Contribution

Abstract

As apex predators, jaguars have significant cultural importance in the Americas and are a key species for monitoring the health of ecosystems. Threats to jaguar populations include human-wildlife conflict, habitat destruction, and poaching driven by markets for jaguar products including trophies and traditional Chinese medicine. Using semi-structured interviews and participant observations, this short contribution provides a product-based crime script for the production of jaguar paste in Suriname. The findings indicate demand for jaguar paste facilitates opportunistic and organized hunting in and around protected areas, and near extractive industries such as mining and logging. A number of actors, and locations, are involved in the production of paste from live jaguars; the final product is often exported to China after being sold in medicinal shops in Suriname. Possible interventions are included alongside each step in the crime script. The short contribution highlights the potential for using crime scripts in wildlife protection to aid prevention efforts.

Keywords

Poaching Jaguar Suriname Crime script Wildlife trade 

Introduction

As apex predators, jaguars have significant cultural importance in the Americas and are a key species for monitoring the health of ecosystems (Cristancho and Vining 2004; Ripple et al. 2014). There are approximately 173,000 jaguars left in the wild, spread across a wide range that connects the southwestern U.S. to Central and South America (Jedrzejewski et al. 2018). The cat has been listed on CITES Appendix I since 1975 and is classified as Near Threatened under the IUCN Red List, with subpopulations outside of Amazonia considered to be the most isolated and threatened (de la Torre et al. 2017). Jaguars face multiple threats, including migration difficulty, human-wildlife conflict and habitat destruction. A particular challenge is the trade in jaguar parts, such as fangs, skulls, claws and skins, which are sold as trophies and traditional Chinese medicine across the Americas and in Asia (Fraser 2018). There are reports that jaguar products are used as a substitute for tiger parts (Bale 2017), but this is just one source of demand. As international demand for jaguar products increases, incentives to hunt these animals illegally do as well. This short contribution presents crime scripts that give insight into the motivation and opportunity structures that facilitate jaguar poaching in Suriname; a country where the killing, possession, transportation, and sale of jaguar products in Suriname is prohibited (Verheij 2019).

Data and methodology

Crime scripts were developed from semi-structured interviews and participant observations conducted between September 2017 and July 2018 as part of a larger effort to bring attention to jaguar poaching in Suriname through advocacy and research. To capture information on the current supply and demand dynamics of the trade, and the steps involved with processing and selling jaguar products, interviews focused on the prevalence of poaching and trading, the modus operandi of offenders, and consumer profiles. During the first field visit, interviews were conducted with hunters (n = 3), local academics leading conservation projects (n = 3), law enforcement officials (n = 2), and a government representative (n = 1). The opportunistic sample was identified through an established network built during previous projects in Suriname; interviewees were considered reliable because of prior collaborations and their established roles/expertise. Research assistants also visited curiosity and jewellery shops selling jaguar products, three in Apoera and five in the capital, Paramaribo (see Fig. 1).
Fig. 1

Map of Suriname

During a second field visit, research assistants met with a snowball sample of individuals from the Chinese community in Paramaribo involved with the processing and trading of jaguar products (n = 7) for an offender’s perspective of the trade. Triangulation of field notes, interviews, and additional information obtained through informal/follow-up conversations was used to develop crime scripts (Cornish 1994). The information was coded so that different stages in the production of jaguar products, i.e. procure/transport/process/sell, were separated and analysed individually to find commonalities across respondents. A product-based approach (Moreto and Lemieux 2015) was used to develop a script showing the production of a specific product, namely jaguar paste, while an actor-based script was developed for the hunting of jaguars. By following the product, a product-based script highlights the different actors/locations involved rather than the crime process of an individual offender.

Results

Interviews and field observations suggest there is an emerging market for jaguar ‘paste’ or ‘glue’ in Suriname; this has been reported previously but no crime scripts with associated interventions are available (Bale 2018). The respondents indicated demand for this product comes from members of the local Chinese community, as well as a market in mainland China. This is different from the traditional products found in curio shops such as fangs, skulls and skins. The paste is said to be produced by boiling down an entire jaguar carcass in large pans for 5 days, skimming off the top, and letting it simmer for an additional 2 days. This process creates a black, glue-like substance that resembles molasses; it is used for arthritis pain, enhancing general health, and increasing sexual potency. A jaguar is processed into approximately 20–30 tubs that respondents explained could be placed into the hold luggage of individuals going back to China and sold amongst closed, friend-to-friend networks; the product-based script is presented in Table 1.
Table 1

Product-based crime script for production of jaguar paste from live animals

Stages

Steps

Location

Actor(s)

Product status

Procure

Find and kill jaguar (see Table 2)

Wilderness area, community land bordering wilderness area, or logging/mining camp

Hunter(s)

Whole carcass

Broker

Contact local Chinese shopkeeper or roving buyer to sell carcass

Contact person who ordered hunt

Community near hunting site

Hunter

Middleman

Whole carcass

Broker (2)

Identify paste processor in Paramaribo

Middleman’s community (small urban area)

Middleman

Whole carcass

Transport

Move carcass to Paramaribo for processing, possibly switching cars along the way, using scout car to avoid law enforcement (late evening/early morning)

Road network

Middleman

Driver(s)

Whole carcass

Purchase

Sell carcass to processor

Urban area

Middleman

Processor

Whole carcass

Process

Boil carcass (meat, skin, bones) down into paste (5–7 days)

Remove teeth and claws for resale

Processor home/workshop

Processor

Shopkeeper

Paste (raw)

Teeth, claws (separate)

Package

Put 500 g of paste into individual pots for sale; store in fridge or freezer

Processor home/workshop

Processor

Paste (packaged)

Sell

Sell individual pots to members of the local Chinese community for use locally or for export

Traditional Chinese Medicine shop

Home of processor

Processor

Exporter

Final Consumer

Paste (packaged)

Export

Place containers in hand luggage and fly to China

International airport (Suriname)

Exporter

Paste (packaged)

Import

Get containers through Chinese customs

International airport (China)

Exporter

Paste (packaged)

Resale

Sell individual pots to local networks in China

Unknown

Exporter

Final Consumer

Paste (packaged)

The poaching element of the trade is complex. Some animals are killed randomly or opportunistically, for example in self-defence or to protect dogs/cattle/goats, with the knowledge that the carcass can be sold to the Chinese market. Others are killed to fulfil specific commissions for international export; see Table 2. There are reports that in these instances a price is generally circulated on the internet (via specific groups for poachers and hunters) or via phone calls from Paramaribo, with buyers willing to pay highly for a “big tiger”. This is not said to be very regular but is believed to be increasing. With both types of poaching, income generation is a clear benefit for hunters.
Table 2

Crime scripts for hunting live jaguars

Stages

Steps—opportunistic or retaliatory hunt (year-round)

Steps—organized hunt (only in dry season)

Preparation

Organize hunting party following wildlife attack on humans/livestock/dogs

Organize hunting party to go hunting for species other than jaguar, such as deer

Obtain weapon and ammunition (privately)

Obtain weapon and ammunition (as part of security role at a logging/mining concession)

Organize hunting party after order placed by buyer

Obtain weapon and ammunition

Obtain animal to be used as bait

Entry

Enter forest

Enter forest

Pre-condition

Follow signs of jaguar, or other prey, such as footprints, droppings, and urine scent

Travel to hunting ground

Pre-condition

Forage in hunting ground unnoticed

Tether bait animal

Build hide to shoot from

Instrumental precondition

Find jaguar

Randomly encounter jaguar causing fear

Jaguar attacks bait animal

Instrumental initiation

Prepare weapon and take aim

Prepare weapon and take aim

Instrumental actualization

Shoot jaguar

Shoot jaguar

Instrumental actualization

Shoot jaguar again if needed

Shoot jaguar again if needed

Doing

Let jaguar bleed to death

Let jaguar bleed to death

Post-condition

Build mechanism for transporting jaguar if needed; or carry over shoulders

Build mechanism for transporting jaguar if needed; or carry over shoulders

Exit

Walk out of forest (back to community or camp); may follow roads or use canoe to reach forest edge

Walk out of forest (back to community or camp); may follow roads or use canoe to reach forest edge

Aftermath

Identify broker or roving buyer

Call buyer

Poaching events were reported to have predominantly occurred near logging operations, mining sites, and close to farming regions. These industries reduce or degrade jaguar habitat, increase access for hunters with new roads, and increase human-jaguar interactions when camps are deep in the forest. Most camps have a shotgun for protection, further increasing opportunities to hunt.

Discussion

Our findings align with previous work on carnivore poaching in the region showing jaguars are killed as a result of human-wildlife conflict and to supply illegal markets (Paviolo et al. 2008). Moreover, our findings also corroborate the growing literature showing extractive industries, such as logging and mining, create poaching opportunities by bringing humans in contact with wildlife and/or making it easier to access wild areas (Espinosa et al. 2018). As Chinese investment in the region increases (Bernal 2016), in combination with a growing local Chinese population in Suriname (Ellis 2012), the threat to jaguar populations may increase due to greater demand for products and more opportunities to access deep forest habitat using new infrastructure.

The findings of this preliminary research have limitations related to the small, opportunistic sample used for interviews. We believe a more systematic approach to crime script production would be beneficial, to increase the reliability and robustness of the scripts presented (Borrion 2013). Further research is needed to confirm if our findings are unique to a specific network of offenders or generalizable across jaguar paste production in Suriname. Questions persist about how the structure/size/organisation of poachers differ, the number of jaguars taken annually, and the proportion of kills that are opportunistic or to order. Finally, to avoid the Chinese community being stigmatised, respectful outreach is advised to understand the nuances of demand in more depth.

Product-based crime scripts are a unique avenue for future research in wildlife crime. By creating multiple scripts for products originating from the same area, it may be possible to identify patterns in actors, transportation routes and/or consumers. The value of crime scripting lies in the potential for this methodology to identify the dynamic relationships between offenders/places/targets, pinch points and vulnerabilities in the process, and help law enforcement agencies build interagency groups when wildlife products cross jurisdictional boundaries.

Potential interventions based on our current findings are listed in Table 3. These interventions are largely focused on opportunity reduction given a lack of specific information on how offender motivation could be addressed given the variety of actors and locations.
Table 3

Product-based crime script for production of jaguar paste from live animals with associated responses

Stages

Steps

Potential responsea

Procure

Find and kill jaguar (see Table 2)

Increase forest patrols

Mitigate human-wildlife conflict

Embed wildlife ranger in mining/logging camps

Link conservation education to cultural beliefs about jaguars

Stricter controls on weapons possession in reserves and logging/mining concessions

Regular checks along logging/mining roads

Broker

Contact local Chinese shopkeeper or roving buyer (Chinese/Filipino) to sell carcass

Contact person who ordered hunt

Encourage natural surveillance by citizens to report carcasses (i.e. see something, say something)

Encourage natural surveillance by citizens to report roving buyers

Broker (2)

Store carcass in small urban

Identify paste processor in Paramaribo

Encourage natural surveillance by citizens to report carcasses (i.e. see something, say something)

Transport

Move carcass to Paramaribo for processing, switching cars along the way, using scout car to avoid law enforcement (late evening/early morning)

Regular checks along roads linking forests and known transit settlements to Paramaribo

Combination overt/covert checks to identify cars turning around before check-points

Build list of suspicious vehicle involved in wildlife product movement

Purchase

Sell carcass to processor

Investigations to identify processor identity and workshop locations (possibly using tracking device on carcass)b

Process

Boil carcass (meat, skin, bones) down into paste (5–7 days)

Sell teeth and claws to other dealer (may happen earlier)

Encourage residents and landlords to report strange smells that last several days

Monitor curio shops selling jaguar products

Package

Put 500 g of paste into individual pots for sale; store in fridge or freezer

Investigations to identify processors and their workshopsb

Sell

Sell individual pots to members of the local Chinese community for use locally or for export

Monitor WeChat groups for wildlife productsb

Regular checking of stores known for selling jaguar productsb

Demand-reduction campaign focused on embassy and in-country professional associationsb

Export

Place containers in hand luggage and fly to China

Better screening of hold/hand luggage to identify paste (strict enforcement of liquid/gel rules in hand luggage)

Look for large quantities of jars when screening luggage

Ask questions about tiger balm, wildlife products to identify suspicious persons

Import

Get containers through Chinese customs

Increased training to identify jaguar paste in regions known for importation (i.e. Zhejiang Province)

Build inter-agency network to connect enforcement units in source and demand countries

Resale

Sell individual pots to local networks in China

Demand-reduction campaignb

aSustainable funding, combined with regular monitoring and evaluation, is needed for proper implementation given the limited resources currently available

bThese responses will require personnel that can read, write and speak Cantonese/Mandarin

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank William Slattery of World Animal Protection for assisting with fieldwork planning and logistics, and for useful comments on the crime script.

Authors’ contributions

AML was responsible for the writing the main text, including the figures, and helping synthesize field reports into a crime script. NB was responsible for managing the fieldwork, preparing field reports from raw data, and writing the main text. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Funding

World Animal Protection funded this project.

Competing interests

The authors declare there are no competing interests.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR)AmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.World Animal ProtectionLondonUK

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