Unidentifiable wild animal parts are piled onto other, everyday commercial goods in Peruvian market.

Tradition and Trinkets: Illegal Wildlife Trade Is Devastating Peru’s Wildlife



Despite being illegal, the demand for luxury and traditional products fuels the trade of wild animal parts in the urban areas of Peru.

A jaguar skin is displayed front and center in a stall at the Belén Market in Iquitos, the most significant open market selling wildlife in the Peruvian Amazon. Once part of a wild animal who roamed and swam free, their skin is being sold illegally for luxury products alongside other body parts that will be used in traditional spiritual and medicinal remedies.

To help stop this, World Animal Protection is partnering with local groups to reduce demand for wild animal parts and facilitate a transition towards sustainable and legal livelihoods for local communities.

Two jaguar skins are hung outside a market stall at the Belén Market in Iquitos, Peru.

Jaguar skins hanging at a market.

Jaguars, the largest cats in the Americas, are targeted by poachers and traffickers throughout Latin America due in part to domestic and international demand for their body parts. Research shows that jaguars are typically killed by multiple gunshots, causing extreme suffering and agony to the animal.

Worshipped by some ancient South American cultures, jaguar populations have declined by 20-25% over the past 30 years and now only inhabit around 51% of their historic geographic range. Trade of jaguars and jaguar parts is prohibited in urban areas in Peru, but our research from 2021 showed that jaguar body parts were reportedly the most expensive items sold by market vendors at Belén Market.

It’s not only jaguars. Hundreds of Amazon species are illegally traded in the region, including primates, ocelots, sloths, boas, paca, caiman, and parrots. Around 9% of the species sold are endangered or threatened. The Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) is largely driven by domestic urban consumer demand in Belén. However, the region is also influenced by international wildlife traders, and species are sought by consumers worldwide.

A large crocodile head is displayed on some wine bottles, its mouth open with chilis and garlic at the Belén Market in Iquitos, Peru.

An alligator head displayed as a trinket.

In collaboration with local partners and with funding from the UK’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund, World Animal Protection has designed a project to help expose and tackle this illegal trade and support important changes that reduce the illegal wildlife trade in Belén.

The project also aims to support the local communities in a transition to legal livelihoods. The evidence and knowledge that we gather will inform the government’s National Action Plan to reduce IWT in Peru.

Our vision is for this project to be scaled up and replicated so that threatened Amazon species, like the jaguar, are no longer killed and sold in urban markets across Peru and beyond.

To learn more, please read our full report here. Follow @UKBCFs on Twitter for more updates on the UK Government’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund.

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