Saturday, 19 May 2018
Short Communication Insights into the illegal trade of feline derivatives in Costa Rica
Advanced Outline Abstract Keywords 1. Introduction 2. Methods 3. Results and discussion 4. Conclusions Acknowledgements Appendix. References Elsevier Global Ecology and Conservation Volume 13, January 2018, e00381 open access Global Ecology and Conservation Author links open overlay panelJennifer RebeccaKellyPh.D. Department of Sociology, 317 Berkey Hall, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, 48824, USA Received 13 October 2017, Revised 14 February 2018, Accepted 14 February 2018, Available online 21 February 2018. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2018.e00381 Get rights and content Under a Creative Commons license Abstract Research has given the illegal trade of feline derivatives in Mexico as well as Central and South America little attention. The purpose of this article is to: 1) Begin a dialogue among human dimensions of wildlife scholars about the economic and cultural values of feline derivatives throughout Mexico, Central and South America; 2) Present the range of economic values that emerged in my interview and participant observation data from Costa Rica; 3) Offer an explanation of how sociological concepts influence the buying and selling of dead jaguars (Panthera onca), pumas (Puma concolor), and ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) in Costa Rica. The principal results are: 1) The sociological concepts of social status and masculine identity interlace with and motivate the illegal trade; 2) The value of feline parts in Costa Rica ranges from $25 to $5000; 3) This value differs by culture and geographic residency of the seller (urban versus rural) and diverged from values discovered in other countries; 4) The men who adorn their homes with illegal trophies are not necessarily the poachers. The value of jaguar skin has been recorded for as little as $100 in a 1983 study conducted in Belize and for as high as $600 in a study done in Venezuela in approximately 2011. Because of cultural differences, Cabécar sell a feline skin for as little as $25 and up to $400 if it includes teeth and nails, but Ticos, who are non-indigenous Costa Ricans, sell the skins from $500-$5000. Non-indigenous, wealthy urban men indicate prestige by the display of feline parts. My findings align with existing research that jaguar skins are sold to people in larger cities and that adornment of feline derivatives is a masculine tradition that can be linked with Amerindian cultures and ancient times. Historically jaguars have been associated with elitist symbolism and evidence in this study suggests this continues in today's culture as a sign of social status. Results suggest that money alone does not drive illegal hunting. The contribution of this study urges researchers to: 1) Develop a typology which includes the characteristics of not only the poachers, but also the buyers of illegal wildlife parts; 2) Evaluate concepts of culture, geographic residency, masculine identity, and social status in the illegal trade of feline derivatives in Mexico, Central, and South America. Previous article Next article Keywords Felines Illegal Residency Masculinity Social status Value 1. Introduction The illegal taking of wildlife has been framed as a social problem, where structural and social psychological explanations have been presented (Eliason, 1999). One North American poaching typology was developed. It hypothesized—commercial gain, household consumption, trophy poaching, recreational satisfactions, thrill killing, protection of self and property, poaching as traditional right of use, disagreement with specific regulations, and gamesmanship—as motivations for killing (Muth and Bowe, 1998). Sociological explanations of poaching, such as these, need to be linked to specific species, geographical contexts and cultures, and must consider the motivations for the buyers of illegal wildlife parts. Species, such as jaguars (Panthera onca), a keystone predator vital for maintaining ecosystem balance in tropical forests (Terborgh, 1992), are threatened by hunting. Research shows hunting of jaguars still occurs as a matter of social tradition, as a threat to livelihoods and human life (Marchini and Macdonald, 2012), and for traditional uses of feline parts (González-Maya et al., 2010). The illegal selling and purchasing of feline derivatives also provides an impetus for hunting and killing felines. Hunters can market paws, teeth, and other derivates throughout Mexico, Central and South America (Caso et al., 2008). Research on human dimensions of jaguar conservation touches on the illegal trade of felines but does not focus on it (Navarro-Serment et al., 2005; Jedrzejewski et al., 2011; Rabinowitz, 1986). In other words, more research is needed to understand how the illegal trade of feline derivatives impacts the conservation of jaguars as a keystone species. This article presents my findings regarding the trade of dead felines in Costa Rica. In part, my goal is to begin a dialogue among human dimensions of wildlife scholars about the economic and cultural values of feline derivatives throughout Mexico, Central and South America. Further, I present the range of economic values that emerged in my interview and participant observation data from Costa Rica. Finally, I offer an explanation of how sociological concepts of culture, social status, masculine identity and urban residency influence the buying and selling of dead jaguars, pumas (Puma concolor), and ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) in Costa Rica. 2. Methods 2.1. Study site The Barbilla Destierro Biological Sub Corridor (SBBD), part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC) of Costa Rica, consists of 37,589 ha of land that connect Nicaragua in the north to Panama in the south. The rural region includes 8000 people living in 26 small settlements (Rojas and Chavarría, 2005), most of whom are farmers and ranchers (González and Poltronieri, 2002). Further, Cabécar indigenous peoples live in isolated reservations with limited access to public services and the outside market (González and Poltronieri, 2002). Cabécar communities have a subsistence livelihood and depend on government subsidies (Rojas and Chavarría, 2005). 2.2. The study The 14-month study began in 2013 and ended in 2014. Semi-structured open-ended in-person interviews and participant observation took place throughout the corridor. The larger study conducted over one hundred interviews that took place in Spanish, Cabécar and English in 23 towns and 12 communities, within three indigenous reservations of the SBBD. Three research assistants (two Ticos who are non-indigenous Costa Ricans, and one Cabécar) assisted with the interviews. A snowball sample design was used to identify participants, beginning with ranchers and Cabécar who lived in the same community as the research assistants. I did not keep record of the people in the snowball sample who declined to be interviewed. Additionally, participants in Panthera's (www.panthera.org) rancher program were interviewed, those not interviewed were deceased, declined or were not easily accessible. While I did not keep track of exactly how many interviews were conducted in the homes of the participants, most of them were. All participants interviewed were adults and most respondents were interviewed individually. While the larger study included 15 interview questions, related to ecological knowledge, norms and behaviors, the current paper addresses only five of these (the appendix lists them). The data presented in this paper emerged while I was analyzing the results from this larger project. In other words, the analysis and results in this paper were derived from the larger study, with the exception of results below regarding the lack of feline trophies in rural homes within the SBBD. Specifically, the data below was from 16 interviews and participant observation with 19 people, consisting of 35 participants total. Ages of the 16 interviewees ranged from 24 to 92 years old, (Ticos 30–92 and Cabécar 24–90). Of the 16 interviewees, one Cabécar and three Ticas were women, five Cabécar and seven Ticos were men. Participant observation consisted of guided public, private and behind the scenes tours at ecotourism establishments, private reserves, and regular attendance at two monthly corridor meetings, and, on five occasions between January 2014 and August 2014, accompanying Panthera in their rancher outreach program visits, which lasted on average three days, although this study was not a part of Panthera's project. The data below was derived from participant observation with six Cabécar and thirteen Ticos-three of them were women. I did not record ages of the Ticos, but the six Cabécar were men and ranged from 19 to 91 years in age. They were observed by my Cabécar research assistant. 2.3. Analysis of data As described above, the larger study was not designed to evaluate the conditions of dead felines as attached to illegal trade, rather, such findings emerged. When analyzing my data for the original larger study, I noticed there was a stream of data related to the illegal trade of feline derivates. From there, I pulled out all of the data that had the word, “skin” in it. Then I conducted a content analysis of any data related to feline derivatives by categorizing data into themes—economic values, culture, geographic residency, masculine identity, and social status—that emerged organically. Of data from 35 participants who discussed feline skins, interview data from two Cabécar and four Ticos did not relate to the sections below, which describe the economic value of feline derivatives and the social variables that have the potential to influence illegal trade: culture, social status, geographic residency (rural versus urban), and masculine identity. 3. Results and discussion 3.1. Culture, geographic residency, and value of feline derivatives Sixteen people, nine Cabécar and seven Ticos, either through participant observation or interviews, referenced the value of feline skins. The value of feline skins and other derivatives ranged from $25-$5000 with an estimated mean of $600, not including the three ranges I was given ($50-$300, $1500-$5,000, and $3000-$5000). Values differed based on culture and geographical residency, rural versus urban. In an interview, one Cabécar sold a jaguar skin for $50 to a Tico accountant whose primary residence is in Costa Rica's capital, San Jose, who has a second home in the mountains of the SBBD, as explained by the wife of the accountant, when asked about ecological knowledge of jaguars. Cabécar described selling skins, generally to Ticos, for as little as $25 and, if they included teeth1 and nails, up to $400. Ticos diverged from Cabécar most sharply in their understanding of price. Ticos sold feline skins for $500-$5000. During participant observation, a Tico hunter explained, his uncle, who lives outside of the SBBD in the Talamanca mountains part of the La Amistad Region, has killed many jaguars and pumas and sells the skins for $1500–$5000. This trade, the hunter explained, is largely attached to the drug market, although he knew of a skin that sold in 2014 for much less, the equivalent of about $500. Spotted felines tend to sell for more money than pumas. One Tico hunter described, in an interview, killing an ocelot and then selling the skin for the equivalent of $2000. He sold it to a man in Limón, the largest city on the Caribbean coast, as explained by his nephew, in an interview when asked about norms. During participant observation, three out of four Tico informants I asked could not off the top of their heads say how much money a jaguar skin would bring, but they said they had a close contact they could ask for the information. The one Tico informant knew of a 2014 sale of a jaguar skin in Turrialba for about $1500. He said that was the going price for a young jaguar as it would have better skin than an older jaguar. Place is also a determinant of price. For example, a jaguar skin is worth more in San Jose, the capital city, than in Turrialba, because it is a smaller city. In sum, the rural Cabécar values ranged from $25-$400, where the more urban Tico values ranged from $500-$5000. The drastic ranges in the value of feline skins is a reflection of the cultural, economic and geographical (residence in remote locations and therefore removal from society, which results in a lack of knowledge regarding market costs) situation of Cabécar. 3.2. Comparing economic value of jaguar derivatives in latin countries Selling jaguar skin is not unique to Costa Rica. Past research puts the price for jaguar skin at $100 in Belize in 1983 (Rabinowitz, 1986); $150-$300 in Mexico in 2000–2002 (Navarro-Serment et al., 2005); and $400-$600 in Venezuela in approximately 20112 (Jedrzejewski et al., 2011). The differences in values may be a product of stricter Costa Rican laws when compared to Belize, Mexico and Venezuela, and/or less abundant large felines in Costa Rica, or the lapse in time of earlier studies. Either way, findings illustrate an emphasis on the instrumental, specifically economic, value of jaguars, pumas, and ocelots. 3.3. Masculine identity Of the 35 individuals, 16 provided price estimates of feline derivatives, where only two were women, Ticas. Neither of them had undertaken the transaction of purchasing a large feline skin. One had encountered an indigenous man selling a skin and the other woman knew what her husband paid for a skin. Men buy, and sell feline skins, according to my data. Adornment of feline derivatives is a masculine tradition that can be linked with Amerindian cultures and ancient times. For example, in Amazonian Indian society, Roe (1998, pp. 177) asserts that, “A Shipibo man wears a jaguar canine necklace for the same reason as a Waiwai man wears the teeth of a jaguar or a puma, to show bravery.” Such traditions of adornment have also been described in observations of the Maya in Belize, during the early 1980s (Rabinowitz, 1986, pp. 130), “It was not uncommon for people to be seen wearing these [canines from a jaguar they'd killed] as ornaments around their neck.” Bravery was interwoven with mimicking the behavior of large felines. For example, in Amazonian Indian society, Roe (1998, pp.177) claims, “men desire to be Yellow Jaguars because they identify with the sun as the giver of fire as the essence of Culture. Because bravery is another key masculine virtue, they also want to be fierce in way and capable in the hunt like the jaguar.” Such comparisons, of man to feline, were not restricted to Amerindians, as Leemans and Kleem (2007, pp. 176) observe, in their discussion of physiognomy, males have been compared to lions dating back to ancient times for qualities, such as bravery. Adornment of large felines then, symbolized bravery and hunting prowess. Masculinity however, is imbued in a larger hegemonic system of big game hunting. As MacKenzie (1988, pp. 7) argues, big game hunting was another form of colonialism, emphasizing the culture of power, dominance, and conquest over animals and nature. Such historical accounts align well with feminist and animal studies scholarship that suggest “ideologies of domination, colonialism and patriarchy” impact the hunting and display of trophy animals (Haraway, 1989; Ritvo, 1990; Ryan, 2000 as cited in Kalof and Fitzgerald, 2003, pp. 119). Additionally, there exists a “desire to possess those creatures who interest or excite the hunter. Taking possession typically entails killing the animal, eating the flesh, and mounting the head or the entire body” (Luke, 1998, pp. 629). The hegemonic undertones and the desire for possession are transparent in possessing a trophy, such as a jaguar skin. However, displaying a jaguar skin may also symbolize the bravery and prowess of the hunt, usually performed by a man. 3.4. Social status and geographic residency Interlaced with masculine identity, evidence suggests killing felines was a sign of social status. For example, an interviewee said that Italians on the Caribbean coast bought a jaguar skin for $50 from indigenous peoples to sell on the black market in Europe for $3000-$5000. When asked about behavior in an interview, one Cabécar indicated he had sold jaguar skins to non-indigenous for $200. It wasn't clear if the price reflected one skin or more given he had previously discussed killing three times per year. Through participant observation, a Tico informant, said of an accountant who lives in San Jose and purchased a jaguar skin from a Cabécar, he has a lot of money and many natural artifacts, including a secret room full of illegal specimens, such as, a jaguar head and skins as well as remnants of other wild cats found in Costa Rica. Such a modern-day display symbolizes masculinity and status for wealthy urban men, which is rooted in historical contexts. Saunders (1998, pp. 4) explains, “Imbued with great strength, ‘courage’, ‘ferocity’, and ‘nobility’, the jaguar was regarded as the self-evident choice for symbolic associations with Pre-Columbian elites, and an obvious emblem for hierarchical, sophisticated, and perhaps imperialistic Pre-Columbian civilization.” Five of my Tico interviewees ages ranging from 47 to 92 years old discussed having a skin as a young adult or knowing of their fathers or grandfathers gifting a skin of a large feline when they were younger, but my interview assistants and I did not see a jaguar, puma, ocelot, or smaller wild cat skin in any homes within the SBBD during interviews and participant observation visits.3 When asked about ecological knowledge, one of the five interviewees, indicated he had killed a puma 20 or 25 years ago, had the skin in the house, but exchanged it for furniture a few years ago. This suggests skins are no longer useful symbols in the rural SBBD, but have a higher value in the current illegal market. Further, my findings imply symbolic exhibition of dead felines does not occur in the SBBD, but there is evidence feline parts are displayed in San Jose, the urban hub of Costa Rica. Similarly, researchers in Sinaloa, Mexico found it to be common for jaguar skin to be sold to people in larger cities (Navarro-Serment et al., 2005). This suggests that felines may be killed and sold from rural areas to urban centers, where there is a market. 3.5. Trophies and culture During participant observations, Cabécar indicated skins would be used for rugs, wallets, and luxury shoes, where one Tico explained that people who make clothing from cows and pigs in Costa Rica would also use crocodiles and jaguars. Feline skins are sold as rugs, tapestries, and boots. Mounted heads are trophies. As Benson (1998, pp. 62) writes, “In some man-jaguar depictions, the jaguar appears to attack the head, as the animal does in nature.… This focus on the victim's head is suggestive in terms of the widespread depiction of decapitated ‘trophy’ head in Pre-Columbian art.” Contemporary Western hunting culture represents this “trophy” head, a cultural practice that may have been extracted from indigenous rituals, which were rooted in actual jaguar behaviors. They may be examples of what Saunders (1998) refers to when he suggests Westerners took indigenous symbols, but left behind the meanings. Specifically, Saunders (1998) presents a caveat to scholars who blend indigenous and Western knowledge. In his discussion of feline symbolism, he examines the old-world view of felines, and explains Christianity and Cartesian philosophies developed views of animals, which were a stark contrast to those of Amerindians where colonist views of felines blended, but lost the indigenous meaning leading to “the construction of misleading western attitudes” (Saunders, 1998, pp. 3). Given the complex socioeconomic conditions of native peoples and their assimilation into Western society, ancient traditions of keeping the trophy from a jaguar kill may not be practical in today's society when a Cabécar could receive $50 from a Tico, for that “trophy”. In this case, the economic value may be more important than a trophy tradition, which may no longer have relevance in a rapidly transforming culture. My findings offer empirical evidence to support the hypothesis that commercial gain is one motivation for killing (Muth and Bowe, 1998), where economic values differ based on culture and urban versus rural residence. My data suggests that trophies are not found in rural Cabécar or Tico homes because rural residents can sell them to wealthy men who bring them to their urban homes. In modern day society, kept trophies (especially skins and heads) seem to be the tradition of an urban Tico buyer rather than a rural Tico or Cabécar poacher. This highlights the importance of not only corroborating a typology for the motivations of poachers (Muth and Bowe, 1998), but one which identifies and validates the characteristics of the buyers of illegal wildlife parts. Further, my study illuminates a rural versus urban divide, which is perpetuated by social status (and affluence), as well as masculine identity. Moreover, such evidence suggests the exposition of dead felines continues to be entangled deeply in masculine identity and social prestige, concentrated in larger cities, and by buyers of rather than poachers of jaguars, pumas and ocelots. 4. Conclusions The contribution of this study urges researchers to consider sociological concepts of culture, geographic residency, masculine identity, and social status in the illegal trade of feline derivatives in Mexico, Central, and South America. Specifically, the display of feline parts indicates prestige for urban, non-indigenous, wealthy men. Future research should further investigate gender, social status, residency, and culture to determine if they correlate with possession of illegal trophies and the economic value of feline derivatives. In other words, my findings suggest the men who adorn their homes with illegal trophies are not necessarily the poachers, therefore, identifying a typology for the buyers of illegal wildlife parts will be important for future research. Findings raise questions about policies, laws, enforcement, illegal trade, and future conservation research related to jaguars, pumas, ocelots and other small felines living in Mexico, Central and South America. Because this study found cultural and geographic differences, future research might take an ethnographic approach into remote areas of Mexico, Central, and South America for a better understanding of illegal feline trade. Homes, as well as bars, might make useful contexts for such research in order to validate this study's findings that feline derivatives do not appear in rural areas. Results suggest that money alone does not drive illegal hunting. Given the threatened status of jaguars, as a keystone predator, further research into sociological motivations for the illegal trade is urgent. Acknowledgements I appreciate the comments and suggestions by the anonymous reviewers of Global Ecology and Conservation. I would also like to thank Aaron McCright for his help with the final revisions of this manuscript. A special thanks to Linda Kalof, Thomas Dietz, Laurie Medina, and Aaron McCright for their valuable feedback on the overall research study. I am also grateful to the following departments at Michigan State University in providing funding for this research: the Animal Studies Program, the Department of Sociology (including the Jay Artis and the John and Ruth Useem Endowments), the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and the Center for Gender, Justice and Environmental Change. Further, I greatly appreciate the Culture and Animals Foundation for their financial support of this study. Finally, I am thankful for Roberto Salom Pérez and Panthera's Costa Rica division in their support of my field work. Appendix. Interview Questions Ecological Knowledge: Do you know what a jaguar looks like? Can you explain it? After, show the participant a picture of the 3 feline species in Costa Rica and have them choose which one is a jaguar. Norms: Are you aware of any big cats killed close to your house or in the area? Retrieve as many details as possible: location, reason/circumstances, method, date, species (jaguar, puma) and sex, any evidence such as photographs, body parts, skin/fur, killer (if possible). (Altered version of the question derived from Caravalho and Pezzuti, 2010) Norms: How many of your neighbors do you think kill jaguars? Think of the landowners in the area, what percentage of them do you think kill jaguars? And pumas? (Altered version of the question derived from Marchini and Macdonald, 2012) Behaviors: Have you hunted jaguars and/or pumas ever? Do you hunt jaguars and/or pumas regularly? Retrieve as many details as possible: location, reason/circumstances, method, date, species (jaguar, puma) and sex, any evidence such as photographs, body parts, skin/fur, killer (if possible). (Latter part of the question partially derived from Caravalho and Pezzuti, 2010) Behaviors: Have you ever killed a jaguar and/or puma? Do you kill them regularly? Retrieve as many details as possible: location, reason/circumstances, method, date, species (jaguar, puma) and sex, any evidence such as photographs, body parts, skin/fur, killer (if possible). (Latter part of the question partially dervied from Caravalho and Pezzuti, 2010) References Benson, 1998 E.P. Benson The lord, the ruler: jaguar symbolism in the Americas N.J. Saunders (Ed.), Icons of Power: Feline Symbolism in the Americas, Routledge, London (1998), pp. 53-76 View Record in Scopus Carvalho and Pezzuti, 2010 E.A.R. Carvalho, J.C.B. 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Terborgh Maintenance of diversity in tropical forests Biotropica, 24 (1992), pp. 283-292 CrossRefView Record in Scopus 1 When asked about norms in an interview, one 60-year-old Cabécar indicated teeth sold for $20. 2 While the article does not specifically say when the data on the value of jaguar skins was collected, it states “today” prior to presenting the value of jaguar skins. The article was published in 2011. 3 There was talk of one jaguar or puma skin in a home, just outside the corridor boundaries on the southwest side, but this was never reconciled. © 2018 The Author. Published by Elsevier B.V.