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Featured Image Credit: CEN/@MPF_AC
WARNING: DISTRESSING IMAGES
Police have busted a gang of illegal poachers after a dentist in the group reportedly killed over 1,000 protected jaguars.
Brazilian authorities have arrested seven men in the country's northwestern state of Acre, on suspicion of having killed thousands of endangered animals including jaguars, capybara, collared peccary and red brocket deer.
Reports state the longest-serving member of the gang and the most prolific is 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 movements 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.
The other six men have been named as Doria de Lucena Junior, a doctor; Sinezio Adriano de Oliveira, a worker in the Judicial Branch; Gilvan Souza Nunes, a farmer; Gisleno Jose Oliveira de Araujo Sa, a prison officer; and Manoel Alves de Oliveira, an electrician.
Professions were not reported for Sebastiao Junior de Oliveira Costa, Reginaldo Ribeiro da Silva or Gersildo dos Santos Araujo.
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 banned 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, which lived in 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.