The illegal trade in wildlife is on the increase all across South America, the most biodiverse continent on the planet with 40 percent of its plant and animal species.

"It's not stalled, or declining, it's on the rise.  It's a globalized business and it needs a globalized response," said Peru's forestry and wildlife service chief Luis Alberto Gonzales-Zuniga.

Peru has just hosted a conference in which 27 mostly countries agreed to share intelligence and enforcement and take the crime more seriously.  A report from Interpol and the United Nations says illegal wildlife trafficking brings in US$20 Billion a year, putting it in the top five lucrative organized crime rackets, with drugs, guns, and human trafficking.

"Corruption is the most disruptive element for our investigations in this region," said Salvador Ortega, Interpol's head of forest crime for Latin America.  "(It) damages international police cooperation and transnational investigations which are fundamental to combat a crime whose origin may be this region, but whose destination is the regions which finance these crimes."

The demand for live specimens is greatest in the US, Europe, and the Middle East.  But now China is investing heavily in the region and bringing some of its bad habits with the cash - increasing the demand for animal parts used in so-called traditional medicine.

For the first time since the 1970s, the poaching of Jaguars is rising to fuel rising demand for Chinese traditional medicine and exotic jewelry.  The big cat has slid to "near threatened" status on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of species because of this.