Cops have busted a gang of illegal poachers after a dentist in the group reportedly killed over 1,000 protected jaguars.
The Brazilian authorities have arrested seven men in the north-western state of Acre on suspicion of having killed thousands of endangered animals including jaguars (Panthera onca), capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris), collared peccary (Pecari tajacu) and red brocket deer (Mazama americana).
Reports state the longest-serving member of the gang and the most prolific was Temistocles Barbosa Freire, a dentist who is believed to have illegally killed over 1,000 jaguars since 1987.
Images reportedly show Freire carrying a dead jaguar on his back as hunting dogs surround him. Reports state the Brazilian authorities had hacked the gang’s conversations and monitored their movement for at least three months before making the arrests.
All seven men were arrested and the Federal Court has opened criminal cases of illegal hunting and use of a firearm without a permit against the men.
The other six men have been named as doctor Doria de Lucena Junior, worker in the Judicial Branch Sinezio Adriano de Oliveira, farmer Gilvan Souza Nunes, prison officer Gisleno Jose Oliveira de Araujo Sa, electrician Manoel Alves de Oliveira, and Sebastiao Junior de Oliveira Costa, Reginaldo Ribeiro da Silva and Gersildo dos Santos Araujo, whose professions were not reported.
Reports state that in the three months the police monitored the gang they killed “eight jaguars, 13 capybaras, 10 collared peccaries and two deer”.
The gang are said to have used the sound of the cuica, a high-pitched Brazilian friction drum, to attract the jaguars.
Reports state the gang could face prison sentences and fines if found guilty, depending on their exact participation in the crimes.
The jaguar is the largest cat in Latin America and it is listed on the CITES Appendix I, which means that all international trade in jaguars or their body parts is prohibited.
Hunting jaguars is prohibited in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, French Guiana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, the United States, and Venezuela. The jaguar is listed as “Near Threatened” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.
The case comes after American dentist Walter Palmer killed Cecil the Lion, a male lion which lived n the Hwange National Park in Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe, and was being studied by a research team from the University of Oxford.
Cecil was wounded with an arrow by Palmer in July 2015 before being tracked and killed with a bow and arrow the following morning. Palmer had a permit and was not charged with any crimes but he received widespread criticism for killing the lion after the case received international media attention.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service added lions in India and West and Central Africa to the endangered species list five months after Cecil was killed, making it more difficult for United States citizens to legally kill lions.
The investigation in Brazil is ongoing.
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