In recent years, several countries in South America have seen a sharp rise in the poaching of jaguars to fuel the illegal trade in their fangs, skins and a paste derived from boiled jaguar carcasses that is sold as a medicinal product in Asian markets. In response, International Fund for Animal Welfare has been training law enforcement in four countries—most recently, Suriname—on how to combat wildlife crime.
“Suriname is the most forested country on the planet and home to many endangered and endemic species. It’s a special place, and we must protect it,” says Rikkert Reijnen, Senior Advisor Conservation at IFAW.
As part of a consortium led by the IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands, IFAW received a grant from the Dutch Postcode Lottery for a three-year project called Operation Jaguar to tackle jaguar poaching and trafficking in Bolivia, Guyana, Peru and Suriname. The overarching goal for Operation Jaguar is to empower key law enforcement agencies and convince prosecutors and judges to enforce laws that protect jaguars from poaching and trafficking in these regions.
lessons in wildlife crime prevention
IFAW’s law enforcement training in Suriname took place over four days in March 2022 in Paramaribo, Suriname, in coordination with the Ministry of Land and Forest Management (GBB). Participants learned a wide variety of wildlife crime prevention techniques, including how to identify common species traded in the region, how to check CITES permits, how to detect smuggled wildlife, and protocols for the management and welfare of seized animals. They also learned to collaborate and support each other across agencies and jurisdictions—a key step in disrupting wildlife crime.
The training was intended to build law enforcement capacity, raise awareness and spark interest among law enforcement agencies to carry out efficient wildlife crime investigations. Based on our pre- and post-training assessments, participants gained significant knowledge about CITES, wildlife smuggling techniques and profiling through the training.
“The energy in the group of trainees was very high. The participants were eager to learn and exchange information,” says Reijnen. “Stakeholders in the enforcement and judiciary chain need to collaborate to make the fight against wildlife crime most effective; the training seems to have achieved this goal.”
We also delivered two virtual sensitization judiciary workshops in Suriname in May 2021 and March 2022 in coordination with the GBB. These workshops aimed to provide selected prosecutors, judges, and magistrates with the knowledge and training materials to ensure that investigators and legal professionals are well equipped to tackle crimes against jaguars and other wildlife. The modules covered during the workshops included investigative strategies and evidence collection, interviewing and working with witnesses, utilizing non-wildlife laws to prosecute wildlife offenders, sentencing and case valuation, and ethics and professional responsibility.
In addition, there was a practical exercise for participants to gain exposure to different types of wildlife crime and learn how to build a case for prosecution. The workshops also included a mock interview that helped participants develop their skill in questioning witnesses in wildlife cases, followed by a mock sentencing proceeding where they practiced the application of sentencing options in wildlife cases. Our evaluations of the participants revealed that they were better versed in wildlife crime after completing the workshops.
With the training and workshops complete, IFAW is working on a Jaguar Species Action Plan to describe the conservation actions needed to minimize impacts of known threats, improve habitat conditions and streamline efforts to conserve the jaguar in Suriname.
Operation Jaguar - South AmericaTo protect jaguars in the Americas, we are helping to fight the growing threat of illegal wildlife trade